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7 of the Coolest Rooms You Can Stand Inside

Chances are, you're in some sort of room right now—maybe your office or your living room. Look around. Is it boring? It’s pretty boring, isn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be like this. Just take some inspiration from, or at least go visit, some of the coolest rooms in the world.

1. ROOMS OF ILLUSIONS

Peter Kogler is an Austrian artist who uses art, music, and video on a large scale to blow your mind. This usually involves being in a room surrounded by some of the most headache-inducing wallpaper designs you have ever seen. According to Snježana Pintarić, the curator of Kogler's recent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Croatia, the artist covered the walls, ceiling, and floor with a twisting tube design “in order to transform an ordinary ‘box-shaped’ space into one that in the observer generates the impression of being lost in time and space, as if we were lost in a virtual maze." Kogler wrapped an exhibition in Brussels last summer, but his next full-room artwork shouldn't be far off.

2. THE OBLITERATION ROOM

What do you get when you take a completely white room and let visitors cover every surface with thousands of colorful stickers? Artist Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room. It’s called that because the walls and the white furniture are slowly covered with color, “obliterating” the original stark environment. Unfortunately, the Japanese artist and writer last displayed the room in 2011, so you can’t indulge your inner child right now—but with any luck, sometime in the future you might get to let your inner child run wild while collaborating with thousands of other people on a crazy modern art project.

3. INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM

If you like Kusama’s sticker idea but don’t think it's trippy enough, don’t worry—she has another installation you're going to love. Called Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, this one is meant to evoke “the dual sentiments of time standing still and going on forever," according to Wallpaper. But it better evoke that feeling in you quickly, since when it showed at a museum in New York City the lines were so long people were only allowed in for 40 seconds.

At 87 years old, Kusama is still producing art and her installations are still traveling the globe. She recently wrapped a show in London, and she also has a permanent exhibition at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

4. ANECHOIC CHAMBERS

It isn’t just artists who have created the craziest rooms ever—scientists and engineers have done it, too. When they need to test things with absolutely no outside influence, including sound waves, they use something called an anechoic chamber. “Anechoic” means the rooms are quiet. Deadly quiet. So quiet that if you spent any real amount of time in there you would go completely mad.

For 11 years, the quietest place on earth was located at Orfield Labs in Minneapolis. They even let people sit in the room, in the dark. The longest anyone managed to stay in their chamber was 45 minutes. The walls absorb so much sound that you can actually hear your internal organs working.

But in 2015, the Guinness World Record for quietest room was broken by a room at Microsoft. No word on how long someone managed to hang out in there … yet.

5. VAN GOGH ALIVE

Even the most ardent philistine is familiar with some of Vincent van Gogh’s work. You can’t escape The Starry Night or Sunflowers on everything from magnets to mobile phone cases. So how can museums make viewing his work more exciting when people are already so familiar with it? Apparently, by making it really, really big.

Using what the creators call a “vibrant symphony of light, color and sound, combined and amplified” to make “an unforgettable multi-sensory experience,” the "Van Gogh Alive" exhibition is supposed to let visitors view the works in a completely new way. It’s also accompanied by a classical score that represents how Van Gogh was feeling as he painted different works, since his life was so filled with emotional ups and downs.

Unlike some of the other shows on this list, this one is still going strong. You can find out if it is coming to a museum near you right here.

6. VARIOUS WORKS BY JAMES TURRELL

You’ll never experience his works the same way in different places, since the installations by artist James Turrell are all site-specific. He uses the rooms he is given, and then fills them with brilliant light.

Why does he do this? "My work has no object, no image and no focus," Turrell has said. "With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking. What is important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought."

If that doesn’t make any sense to you either, just keep looking at the pretty colors. He exhibits constantly, and his current show is running at the Long Museum in Shanghai, China.

7. SALT CATHEDRAL OF ZIPAQUIRÀ

Despite its fancy-sounding name, the Salt Cathedral isn’t actually a cathedral, although it does attract as many as 3000 people to church on an average Sunday. It is also a huge tourist draw in Colombia.

While a small chapel was built by the salt miners in some of their unused tunnels more than two football fields underneath the ground, a bigger church took its place in the 1950s. Then in 1990, the Colombian Society of Architects opened up a contest for a new, amazing design. The “cathedral” opened in 1995. Technically there are three rooms you can stand in, each representing a different stage of Jesus’s life.

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Ape Meets Girl
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Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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presidents
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.

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