Chicago’s WNDR Museum President Ryan Kunkel and Curatorial Coordinator Hannah Shanker Talk Exhibits, Success, the Future and More

If you're planning on visiting Chicago any time soon, there's one location you have to have on your itinerary: WNDR

Chicago's WNDR Museum President and Curator Talk Exhibits

If you're planning on visiting Chicago any time soon, there's one location you have to have on your itinerary: WNDR Museum. In the heart of the Windy City, WNDR Museum (pronounced "wonder") delivers exactly what its name promises: wondrous exhibits. Whether it's the Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room or one of the new exhibits you can't wait to see, the museum is the perfect place to explore the gift of human creativity and get in touch with your curious side. CELEB sat down with President of WNDR Global Ryan Kunkel and WNDR Museum's Curatorial Coordinator Hannah Shanker to talk about what people should know about a day at the museum.

WNDR Museum: What You’ll Find

At WNDR Museum, you won't want the traditional sterile museum exhibits that have you fighting sleep. The exhibits at WNDR invite visitors to get involved, get creative, and get thoughtful. It's an "immersive art and technology" venue that provides a number of interactive exhibits – ranging from the artistic to the absurd.

Exhibits include the following:

  • WNDR Light Floor: Made from hundreds of motion-sensitive LED panels, the Light Floor combines movement with art. Crafted by BrightLogic, the Light Floor is divided into quadrants that allows each animation to travel in different directions depending on which quadrant is activated. The panels react to movement to create an ethereal and futuristic display guided by visitors.
  • Hi!: This exhibit takes guests on a journey through themselves. First, take a traditional selfie. Then the exhibit will display over 10 different photos, each edited with quirky cartoon features to show you a different side of yourself.
  • AMES: This room is built around optical illusion. Lighted octagons and forced perspective make it a trippy and mind-bending experience – perfect for capturing some fun pics with friends.
  • Boxed In: A rotating exhibit that features local performers in a new and interesting way, the projected boxes currently display Boxed In: Movement. Chicago-based dancers Jasmine Pumanes, Brandon Jackson, and Carly Carroll share their artistic movements with visitors in this unique display.
  • Flip Disc: Designed by media art collective BREAKFAST, Flip Disc uses bespoke technology originally designed for airport signage which at WNDR explores human movement and reaction.
  • Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Room: Guests are limited by artist Yayoi Kusama to exactly 1 minute in the infinity room. The museum website explains, "The visitor is enveloped inside a large mirrored room with stainless steel balls suspended from the ceiling and arranged on the floor; an enclosed column within the room offers yet another mirrored environment accessible through peepholes. A sense of infinity is offered through the play of reflections between the circular shapes and the surrounding mirrors. The balls recall Kusama's installation Narcissus Garden, first shown outdoors at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966 with over 1500 reflective spheres and recently presented in the United States at The Glass House in Connecticut. In Narcissus Garden, Kusama attempted to sell mirrored balls by the side of the road for $2 a pop. It was a commentary on the art market, and today it’s a reminder that narcissism predates selfies."
  • Plus many more.

When asked which exhibits guests love the most, Shanker shared, "Two of the most universally loved exhibits are the WNDR Light Floor and, of course, Yayoi Kusama's infinity room Let's Survive Forever. They're totally different experiences, but are both so unlike anything most people have ever experienced." WNDR is always growing and changing, and they owe much of the museum's draw to the fact that the artists bring their creations to such imaginative life. Shanker adds, "We are so proud to work with a large network of artists, technologists, makers, and hackers on a local and global scale. Our artists who have visited the space are always excited and grateful to be part of WNDR."

Recently Added Exhibits

Having opened pre-2020, WNDR has had to adjust to the world as it exists now. Kunkel explains, "WNDR launched prior to the pandemic and was forced to close for a period of time (along with so many other organizations). We used the time to reimagine over 20 new installations and reemerge with many new touchless experiences."

  • Try to Get Higher: Designed by artist Andy Arkley, this exhibit invites visitors to create their own music. Visitors will interact with wood sculpture, video projection, and music while manipulating 16 lit arcade buttons that direct synchronized music and animation sequences, unique to each person.
  • ANTIBODIES: The WNDR team explains ANTIBODIES in a statement, "ANTIBODIES by Studio Iregular is an interactive experience in the form of a never-ending video call that was born during quarantine from the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to replace a physical exhibition. The concept of replacing social gatherings with video calls seemed to perfectly echo replacing the physical art installation with a virtual one. This is how ANTIBODIES was born: an online interactive artwork that can be accessed by anyone at any time. A two-part experience, the exhibit takes the form of a never-ending video conference call. In Part 1, viewers are confronted with their own image filmed by their webcam, while a software tracks facial gestures and responds with overlaid patterns. Part 2 takes the viewer to the 'conference room' where they witness the recordings of all others who participated in the experience, themselves included." The exhibit highlights the difference between the real world and the online world. As part of the online world, we see ourselves in the crowd – whereas in the real world, all we can see are other people. It's a fascinating dive into the psychology of human interaction as we begin to expand our lives in the virtual world.
  • Everbright: 400 LED lights and 162 possible hues turn this giant interpretation of a light bright into a playful and fun way to explore creativity and art. The exhibit reacts as visitors turn each dial, changing the hue of each individual LED light.

Plans for the Future

WNDR is a unique place to visit, one that stimulates the mind and inspires creativity. But will they stay in Chicago forever? Kunkel explains that Chicago is a "hub for art and technology – the essence of WNDR," and adds, "The response in Chicago has been overwhelming. We started as a pop up experience in 2018 and evolved into a permanent pillar in the community. We’re now exploring additional markets to allow more guests to experience the magic of WNDR. We encourage you to follow us on our social channels to stay up to date on future plans."

WNDR has opened at exactly the right time, as people eagerly seek interaction with the world around them and connection to things we've been isolated away from for 2 years. Art, creativity, human connection – all found at WNDR. Shanker explains, "At WNDR, interaction is an integral part of the experience. The art is not complete without the guest, which is different from the traditional museum experience of observing. We encourage you to get playful, get curious, and get involved. "

In an ever-evolving venue of exploration, WNDR provides the world a chance to connect with the moments and movements that matter. Shanker finds ANTIBODIES to be a particularly relevant exhibit right now, sharing, "One of our newer installations, ANTIBODIES by Studio Iregular, is especially relevant right now. It was born out of quarantine, inspired by the way that social interactions and communication were forced to transition from in-person to virtual. "

If your curiosity is piqued and you're ready to get your hands on these fascinating exhibits, visit the website for more information.