Garden of Eden

Hand-painted banners depicting tarot cards hang throughout the inside “garden” at The Cell Theatre in Chelsea, as part of Dark Matter Immersive’s Garden of Eden.
How much performance can you expect in this immersive art installation?

By Andrew Andrews

Garden of Eden is an immersive installation in which one or two guests wander the third floor of The Cell Theatre, exploring a labyrinth-like garden that explains and reflects upon tarot card reading.

Large banners depicting specific cards appear throughout the space, accompanied by descriptions of the imagery and meaning of each card. Nearby, meditative questions are posed on smaller banners, and participants are prompted to confront their demons by answering introspective questions on scraps of paper and posting them on adjacent walls.

Although guests are required to sign a COVID-19 waiver before entering the installation, safety is enhanced by limiting access to one person or couple for a period of fifty minutes. Masks are required at all times during occupancy, and the markers used to answer the questions are reportedly sanitized between visits.

The experience culminates with a live tarot reading conducted over a video call with a practitioner from Catland Books in Brooklyn, providing a first-hand experience of how the cards introduced by the exhibit can be applied to divine answers to a question or situation that you personally face.

The so-called “garden” is littered with found objects.

Although I don’t get the connection between Garden of Eden’s title and its relationship to tarot, it’s obvious that a great amount of thought and effort went into designing the elaborate space. While some props certainly suggest a garden motif, a plethora of seemingly randomly-placed objects hint at the occult, eclecticism or just plain junk collecting.

If you’ve ever experienced an immersive space designed by Burning Man attendees then you’ll instantly find the scene familiar; if not, you can consider this experience as much a glimpse into that subculture as it is a primer on cartomancy.

The price seems a little high for what is essentially a timed ticket admission to a small art gallery. When you divide the cost of creating the work by the number of guests that can be accommodated, I suppose attendance should best be considered patronage for the artists, rather than a strong value proposition.

I’ve never been a huge fan of fortune telling and I don’t feel any different as a result of this experience, but that’s not to suggest that it wasn’t at all worthwhile. In particular, if your plans to return to the playa earlier this month were thwarted by COVID-19, Garden of Eden might be enough taste of what you missed to lessen your disappointment.

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Andrew Andrews attended Garden of Eden at The Cell Theatre Third Floor in New York on Friday, September 18, 2020 @ 7:00pm to write this review.

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