Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Posted on
May 22, 2017
12

I spend a lot of time trying to make sense of things in my world. I’m often looking for explanations when there aren’t any, and inevitably find myself frustrated by the lack of answers. Why does Rand leave his shirt and jeans on the ground next to bed, stretched out, as though someone had been lying down in precisely that outfit and had suddenly vaporized? Why do I sometimes leave important, non-food items in the fridge? (Probably because I know I’ll look in there, eventually.) Why does my mother describe a fur vest with absolutely no safety features as “her work vest”? WHAT KIND OF WORK REQUIRES YOU TO LOOK LIKE YOU SKINNED A WOOKIE?

These are the mysteries of the world.

I keep looking for answers, even when there aren’t any. I suppose that’s why I was so bewitched by Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return. The massive interactive art installation was a winding mystery. Look hard enough, and some answers reveal themselves. But even when they don’t, the result is pretty magical.

When people found out we were going to Santa Fe, Meow Wolf came up frequently on the list of things to see. But when we asked people precisely what it was, replies were not exactly forthcoming.

“You just need to go,” they said.

And so Rand and I went with no prior knowledge and no idea what to expect, like our President plunging into the Middle East peace process.

Meow Wolf is a massive arts space, a mix of neon light and bright patterns that remind me of an early 90s childhood: of brilliant Lisa Frank stationary and mornings spent watching Mr. Wizard before heading to school. The current installation sprawling – part playground, part sculpture, it feels like a classic sci-fi novel and a choose-your-own adventure book in one.

The lobby and gift shop at Meow Wolf.

The building itself was once a bowling alley – it’s now owned by George R.R. Martin (yes, he of Game of Thrones fame – but fear not, despite some creepy undertones, the place is family friendly).

The premise is this: in a large, peaceful Victorian home, a child has gone missing. He’s disappeared into another realm after delving too heavily into a departed grandparent’s scientific research. And soon you, as a museum visitor, will follow suit.

The exhibit begins with the house, massive and meticulously constructed.

 

At first glance, everything seems commonplace, despite the fact that it feels like you are part of the weirdest open house ever – wandering through an actual home with a bunch of strangers.

 

But if you look closer, you’ll find that nearly every object inside reveals a clue to what may have happened to the missing child.

 

You rifle through books, you search through cabinets. You open up the fridge and find it’s a portal into another world.

 

At some point, may find yourself crawling into a dryer.

 

… or a fireplace.

 

And then …

 

It was part M.C. Escher, part Dali, part A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Rand, trying to figure it all out.

Every room is a work of art, everything is baffling, and all of it is wonderful.

Some parts of the other realm hearkened back to the house. Like this room of brightly colored coral …

 

… and the fishtank we saw earlier.

While other stuff seemed to stand on its own – spanning different genres.

There are helpers throughout – people dressed in lab coats who are entirely in character, mumbling facts and figures to themselves while reading clipboards, but who will help you should the need arise.

For someone who is always trying to make sense of things, Meow Wolf was a little frustrating. What exactly was I supposed to do? Was it a game? Was it art? HOW DO YOU WIN? The harder I looked for answers, the more elusive they became.

And I realized that there was no linear mystery to be solved, no clear end point. It wasn’t until I let go of all those ideas that I really started to appreciate the place.

Sometimes there are no simple answers. Sometimes life defies explanation. Sometimes, you just need to experience things for yourself.


Also published on Medium.

Leave a Comment

  • All About Sana

    lol! What an interesting article. To be an honest, I was a little creeped out by the pictures-disturbing to say the least. But, I like how you ended the post-just enjoy and not worry about the details. Maybe it’s a child’s imagination in real life?

  • Ro

    Hi Geraldine! I am someone who has read every single one of your blogs. I talk about you and your writing to my friends and family as if you are my best friend!! Your writing is unbelievably funny and witty and touching and I could go on and on! But the real reason I’m commenting is this … I bought your book. When it arrived I sat it on the table and for days I just looked at it sitting there. I was dying to start reading it but I procrastinated because I didn’t want it to end. Well I finally picked it up … and could not put it down until sadly it ended. I absolutely LOVED it … I want more!! My hubby is beginning to think I am losing my mind. He stares at me like I have made up an imaginary friend when I ramble on and on about you. “But she loves dessert and cake and mint chocolate chip just like me! And don’t get me started on bucket lists and how everything needs its place … I told you I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Ugh … and American Idol??!!” I’m not sure he gets it. BUT I DO! I am thankful I stumbled across your blog way back when. Your writing is something I look forward to. It has made me laugh out loud. It’s even made me cry. But mostly it makes me feel like I have an imaginary friend. Thank you for writing that book. Thank you for writing this blog. I seriously find your writing to be one of a kind!!!

  • It’s all about the journey. Love it! 🙂

  • So…after reading this blog and looking into Meow Wolf for a possible road trip, I had such a bizarre dream. So weird, that I feel I have to share it with you.

    So I dreamt that I went, but instead of trying to find a missing child, it was an actual haunted house, and we were trying to solve the child’s murder. A bunch of people were walking through quickly and taking selfies, but I was pulling books off the shelf, looking at hand written notes, and trying to be a through investigator. I had brought along some co-workers who weren’t that interested. But then suddenly something happens, and all the other tourists disappear, and we slide through a fireplace into a world of demons. We get separated in this weird other world, that somehow spits you out every now and then into the “real world” tourist area, except we run around trying to hide/attack the demons and people think we are just performance actors. Its not necessarily a scary dream, more like “Oh great this again?” annoyance as we try to solve the mystery. At some point, a demon changes me into a cat, actually a talking cat. And sends me back in time to when the boy was still living at this fancy mansion like house. So I go up to the door (as a cat standing on its back feet), and ask the butler to announce me, and as a cat pull that Indiana Jones scene in the castle when he pretends he is a tapestry art dealer. The butler doesn’t seemed phased by a talking cat, and does believe that I’m a art dealer and lets me in. I’m so shocked that this works that this shock wakes me up out of the dream.

    So yeah, weird dream. I can only imagine what I’ll dream about if I actually visit it.

  • Downtonian

    This place looks super-cool and reminds me of the City Museum here in St. Louis, which is most definitely NOT, in fact, a museum. I call it “an interactive play space for all ages.” It’s housed in an old multi-story shoe factory building and there’s a bus on the roof, an actual circus, miles of tunnels where grownups don’t fit and you can lose children for hours, caves, a ball pit for kids AND adults, a place to make paper snowflakes, etc. ETC. You would love it… 🙂 Hope you make it here to the Lou sometime for a visit!

  • This place looks incredible! I can appreciate it’s probably better not to know anything before you go but it looks like a magical land and mystery all rolled into one. Love it!

  • Is there actually a “solution” to the mystery, or is it more of an open-ended exploration of the situation? I was there today (disclaimer: the place is amazing), but it didn’t seem like there was a quest for you to solve the mystery so much as some intrigue behind the plot. Did you solve it?

    • Stacy Egan

      I feel like there is a solution, but I spent four hours and still have questions. I’d recommend starting at the mailbox and then reading the newspaper in the kitchen. Plan to spend a lot of time watching all the videos…read the documents in the office. Click around on the computer. Open the safe. Read the planner on the coffee table; read the mom’s diary upstairs in the bedroom. I figured out who most people were that were referenced…Anyone know who “Emerson” is?

      • Katie Bell

        He’s the Grandad of the kid. Did you decipher the website in the office? It’s an actual website…

  • Katie Bell

    Just went for the second time and delved deeper into the mystery. One of my favorite spots in one my favorite cities

  • Veronica

    I have never considered visiting New Mexico. Now I feel it must be added to my list of Places I Must See.

  • Russell Anderson

    We went a few weeks ago when we were in New Mexico. Meow Wolf is now my new favorite place in New Mexico. I could LIVE there! My kind of place, my kind of folks!

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