I Went To 29Rooms — Here's Everything I Wish I Knew Beforehand
If you have ever scrolled on Instagram or stumbled across an article or two on the internet, chances are that you probably saw images of Refinery29's "Immersive World of Culture and Creativity" AKA 29Rooms. Everything looked bright, colorful, and whimsical but there was still an air of mystery to it. The fact that no one really knew how to describe it made it that much more interesting. So, of course I bought tickets when I found out it was touring and Chicago was the next stop.
The moment I got to the location of 29Rooms and saw a line formed around the block, I knew it wasn't going to be what I imagined — and that's after reading the FAQ list. And you know why I didn't anticipate any of the less-than-glamorous stuff? Because that's the shit the content creators, press, and regular schmegular people don't capture or talk about. Maybe I didn't do enough prep work.
I had tickets for the first time slot — 11am - 2pm — and there were three slots per each day that the show was in town. Once me and my partner checked in with one of the reps, we walked through the maze-like entrance, took a quick photo at the step and repeat, and finally were in to experience all the magic IRL.
THERE WERE SO MANY PEOPLE. How were there already so many people? Every single installation was flooded by perfectly dressed humans. It took us a solid 15 minutes to center ourselves and figure out our plan of attack. I thought I was going to be able to leisurely stroll and post up in each section but I quickly figured out that this was not a casually-walk-up-and-admire-art type of thing.
THE SPACE WAS SMALLER THAN I THOUGHT. The warehouse we were at was big, but not as big as I anticipated for 29 rooms of art. This wasn't something negative — in fact, I was impressed that they were able to fit so many things in there. Props to the people who Tetris-ed the hell out of that.
THERE WERE NO TIMERS. Okay, so hear me out here: If you are going to sell A LOT of tickets (dare I say...over-sell), and every single person is trying to get to each room, maybe people shouldn't be able to spend 12+ minutes trying to get their kid to smile for pictures? I understand the goal is to have people interact with each piece, but something's gotta give when you have that many people within a 3-hour window. I only made it to 11-12ish rooms, FYI.
I DIDN'T REALIZE THE MERCH SECTION WAS CONSIDERED A ROOM? There's not much to say about that, really.
MY DSLR WASN'T NECESSARY. I wish I shot everything on my phone. Sure, it was nice to have crisp, quality photos but it wasn't worth lugging around. I do wish I brought my Instax, though!
EVERYONE WILL STARE AT YOU WHILE YOU TAKE YOUR PICTURE(S). I'm so awkward at shooting just one-on-one with my gf, so to have that amplified was a bit overwhelming. If you get a chance to visit it, be prepared to mentally block out all those eyes staring at you while they wait in line. I honestly would tell my gf to shoot a pic or two and would walk out of each place as quickly as possible.
THERE'S A CHANCE OF EXPERIENCING A POWER OUTAGE. Half of the warehouse lost power which was really disheartening. It made the lines on the other side twice as long and no one from the Refinery29 team mentioned partial refunds/the ability to come back at another time/etc. It was down for close to two of the three hours, so it seemed a bit weird to me that no one would mention alternative options for the people who were affected.
PEOPLE WERE SO NICE. "Can you take my picture? YASSS, OF COURSE" "Omg, you look so fierce!" "Work it out, baby!" are all things I heard and we need that kind of positivity in the world.
IT'S STIMULATION OVERLOAD. This is very much tied to who you are as a person and not what this event is as a whole. Because there's so much going on everywhere you turn, it's easy to feel like your head might burst. It was kind of like a combination of being at Disneyworld/the zoo. It depleted me of my energy and it took me a couple hours after the event to feel 100 again. But, again, this is specific to me and how I absorb what's going on in different environments.
Despite what this post might come off like, I really enjoyed my time there. I've never been to something like that and it made me feel inspired. Just go on the #29Rooms hashtag and you'll read rave review after rave review, and I cosign it. However, I thought it wouldn't be fair to post pictures of the event and just write a couple sentences about how empowering and fascinating the rooms were.
Would I recommend it? 10/10. Absolutely. Would I go again? Not so sure — unless Refinery29 wanted to invite me to their exclusive launch party, then hell yeah! Hit your girl up, R29.