Explore AR at the Funhouse

At the Funhouse, everything – and nothing – is as it seems.

Nearly 20 rooms have been converted into a choose-your-own-adventure-style multimedia display of art, music, performance and as much immersive technology as the traveler would like to integrate.

David Fradkin, co-founder and production lead for Mondo Forma, the artist collective behind the Funhouse, said the inspiration for the installation came from the massive Burning Man festival and others like it.

“The idea is that you can go in, not just on different days but the same day with two friends,” he said. “They can split ways and at the end you’ll have two very different experiences. It’s a special thing we’re trying to create.”

They also host big, lavish and entertaining events at the Funhouse every few weeks, including a Gatsby-themed party this Friday, August 9. There will be live jazz musicians playing throughout the three-story house, and everyone who attends is requested to dress their part for the Roaring ’20 revival.

But let’s take a step back: What, exactly, is going on here?

“We wanted to create world,” Fradkin said. “Not everyone has smartphones/not everyone wants to engage with a smartphone. We created a world where, whether it’s traditional visual art or interactive tech that does include some third-party, phone or table, or (augmented reality) through a phone or tablet, you’re engaged no matter what.”

Want to keep it surface level? No problem! There are themed rooms and plenty of art to hear and see and you wander through 18 rooms and other “micro-discovery moments” in the Funhouse.

Want to jump head-first into the rabbit hole? Even better: “There’s a little logo that shows a tablet or phone right next to things that are AR-enabled. If you hold a phone up with the Funhouse app, they’ll see that scene come to life,” which includes at least one gold-framed painting with rabbits lighting up and throwing back beers, Fradkin said.

Not everything comes to life through the magic of technology, but there’s plenty of things that do, he added.

“You walk into each (room and) it’s a completely different world. You might not have your phone out of your pocket at all,” he said.

Some rooms were designed with musicians in mind: Six Toronto-based performers on Universal’s label were brought in to help inspire and create environments, including The Beaches, Lights, New City and more.

The whole experience, despite all rooms having different themes and motifs, should feel seamless, he said.

One thing he didn’t expect to see when the Funhouse opened earlier this year is the amount of enjoyment kids have in running through the worlds. The house was designed with a “20-30 demographic” in mind, but kids have loved going through the rooms. “They’ve been coming multiple times and spending two to three hours in here and are super engaged. It’s sort of a playground for adults but kids already understand it.”

The Funhouse, at 101 Lisgar St. in the Queen West neighborhood, is currently slated to be open through September, but it’s likely the installation will be in place a little longer, at least until the end of the year. It’s recommended that the Funhouse app be installed before arriving, and guests can expect to spend 35 to 60 minutes each visit, depending on the route they take.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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