The Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry is the home of Los Angeles Philharmonic, aka “LA Phil.”
In the early afternoon on non-concert days several tours are available. Thought Experiments in F# Minor from artist duo Cardiff and Miller is an immersive video narrative piece that leads the audience around the labyrinth-like building as a story unfolds.
Best of all it’s completely free.
After checking in at a desk just to the left of the entrance, you hand in a photo ID in exchange for an iPad and a pair of headphones. The experience starts at a specific bench in the lobby.
I don’t want to give too much away here but the video begins with an adorable cat in a cardboard box before synchronizing with the current location, and begging you to walk around with it.
A seemingly detached narrator guides you to walk from place to place with the video as you follow two characters played by the wildly talented actress Jena Malone around the building.
The story is difficult to describe, but suffice it to say it involves life, death, the space in between — and Schrodinger’s Cat.
In real life, security guards stationed at key points open doors that would otherwise be off limits to the general public during the tour hours.
At one moment in the narration the audience is instructed to look at their reflection in a mirrored wall — if you ignore this and watch the video instead, you see the camera operator as he mimics the action, revealing himself in the reflection. I thought that was a clever Easter Egg, perhaps a nod to the impossible mirror scene in the film Contact (also featuring Jena Malone when she was a little girl.)
What really sets Thought Experiments apart from any immersive experience I’ve ever done are the musical performances from LA Philharmonic featured throughout. I’m not even a big classical music fan but I found these to be a treat.
In the final segment I found myself almost dancing as I followed the camera choreography in an empty room as the video veers through a small orchestra performing in the same space.
My recommendation: This is an unforgettable experience — I can’t think of a single criticism, it’s the most unique and well put together piece of immersive content I’ve ever seen. Be aware it involves stairs and escalators, and it’s only recommended for those 10 years old or over due to the content. Wholeheartedly recommended.