Inside the entrance to Beyond the Haunted Puddle, the haunted house/immersive art installation now open at PORT, a glassy-eyed witch stirs a bubbling cauldron of human entrails — but that’s where the similarities to a classic haunted house end. Through a series of increasingly demented environments, including a truly nightmarish interlude at a purgatorial Department of Motor Vehicles counter, the installation knocks the viewer off balance in ways both visceral and cerebral.
“[We wondered] what could be scary, what makes it fun, what makes it contemporary?” director Xavier Juarez says. “Making an immersive world is this great opportunity for an artist.”
The scene at MechaCon check-in is bedlam. A man in a glittery green bowler hat, possibly left over from St. Patrick’s Day, jostles a woman with blue and purple hair, who consoles her crying sister. A girl in a metallic red and blue jacket, matching bikini bottoms and black high-heeled boots shivers nearby. Other people in varying degrees of costume stand around the registration desk in vague gestures toward lines; the confusion seems to stem from the fact that there are multiple registration levels. Red-shirted volunteers keep trying to line people up based on the first letter of their last names (“N through Z!”)
Behind me, a young man in an electric blue wig, a red fedora with playing cards tucked into the band and goggles seems indifferent to the chaos. He’s carrying two boxes at about chest-level.
“What’s in the box?” I ask.
The first box has a deck of Magic: The Gathering cards, he says.
“And the other one?”
“It’s a box of string.”
"And what is the string for?
“No one is supposed to know what the string does.”
Shyly, he opens the box’s lid to reveal a tangled nest of extension and power cords.
After a summer of high-hedonist activities (tubing, daiquiris, kiddie pools filled with Jell-O), return to civilized culture in August with the city's annual "Museum Month."
During the event, major local museums offer free admission with an active membership at one of the participating institutions. For example, buying a membership to the Contemporary Arts Center gets you in to the New Orleans Museum of Art, the National World War II Museum, Le Musee de Free People of Color and several other properties.
The program is a great way to check out museums during a traditionally quiet month for tourism, when galleries and exhibits are less crowded. Budget-friendly memberships include Ashe Cultural Arts Center (from $25), the Historic New Orleans Collection (from $35), and Longue Vue House & Gardens (from $35).
A complete list of museums is available online.
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