Updated: Apr 20, 2020
If you follow our social media, then you likely saw that I was fortunate enough to visit Tape Philadelphia’s Enter the Cocoon this past weekend. The massive installation, which closed on Sunday, was organized by Group X, an anonymous group of artists, curators, and organizers, who invited in renowned European collective Numen/For Use over to create the massive installation. This installation is phase two of an ongoing partnership between Group X and the Navy Yard, phase one being a collection of massive tentacles jutting out from the windows of the warehouse making it appear as if something is trying to escape and phase three coming in 2020.
The Installation was quite breathtaking to see as you enter the massive, dark warehouse you’re guided around a corner to see the only lights in the building pointed at this collection of clear tubes that look like something straight out of a science fiction movie. The tunnels are comprised of 21.5 miles of tape layered and build up to create a structure that’s able to support multiple people’s weight. The structure is mildly transparent, you can see the silhouettes of the people inside of it but the heavy layering of the miles upon miles of tape distorts the major details and reflects a ton of the incoming light off of it giving the piece the appearance of almost being white.
I mentioned people being inside of it, and again if you saw the social media posts you know I was inside it, and that’s because this piece isn’t just for looking at, it’s heavily interactive. This installation had, in my opinion, the perfect levels of interaction for all level of viewer. At its simplest, viewers can simply walk around the warehouse and take in the details of the network of tubes, see how it interacts with light, and see how those who are interacting with it do so. At the end of the piece there is a tunnel that is blocked off from the inside so that people can’t crawl through it but from the outside people can see how the tunnels of the Cocoon work, almost as if they’re opening up at the end. This portion of the Cocoon is also lit for an excellent picture taking moment. The final level of interaction is obviously the ability for the viewer to crawl around inside of it. First of all, it’s miraculous that Numen/For Use were able to construct this out of tape in the first place but to also be able to support multiple people crawling around in it is just insane. A claustrophobic’s nightmare, the inside of the Cocoon was a wild experience. The opposite effect of what’s happening on the outside is happening inside, the layers of tape and light reflecting off of it make it totally opaque. I hate to use the science fiction example again, but you really do feel as if you’re crawling around in some sort of alien web system.
Overall, Group X paired with Numen/For Use created a piece that was stunning both visually and interactively. The piece had something to entice the most critical art viewers and the most casual art viewers. Even the kids that I saw there were having a great time, except for some mild claustrophobic episodes which are totally understandable. I think Group X could have easily copped out on this year’s installation and done something similar to what they did last year and while it probably still would have been successful it would have been a bit lame. Instead they sought to do something different and brought in a collective, whose work is very seldom available in the U.S., to create a brilliant and different experience. I think that’s really admirable and I’m very excited to see what they have in store for us in 2020. If you weren’t able to visit the cocoon this year, it’s very well documented on the Group X and Navy Yard Instagrams, as well as the Navy Yard’s website so check those out for a more in depth look.