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‘Challenge your brain’: World Of Mind museum opens at Tour & Taxis
“What is reality and how do you perceive it?” That is one question raised by the new Brussels museum World Of Mind (WOM) at Tour & Taxis.
Offering visitors nearly 120 illusory experiences in all five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, WOM has opened its doors at the ever-expanding canalside site.
“We want to make clear that there is more than one reality,” the museum’s scriptwriter Henry Dupuis told the Bulletin at the press opening. As part of the Tempora exhibition team that designed the museum, he emphasised that reality was subjective and influenced by the onlooker’s own experience.
If the Belgian capital already has a Museum of Illusions, WOM is “more scientific,” says Dupuis. Detailed technical explanations of every experience are available in French, Dutch and English, via barcodes. This approach may not please everyone, but it saves space: “If we translated everything, this would be a museum of information boards,” he adds.
Explaining the science behind every experience in the museum is important, but this does not mean dull. The museum team wants to make the experiences accessible to children as young as five. “We aimed to keep the museum educational and fun, and all the experiences have been tried out by thousands of people.”
Indeed, WOM is anything but static. It features a range of interactive challenges like the Stroop Test. In this task, when looking at a series of words, you have to press ‘green’ not ‘red’ if the word ‘red’ is written in green. In another brain teaser, the ‘Charpentier’ size-weight illusion, the challenge is to pick up three different-sized cubes and guess their weight. The test is not to automatically think that the largest is the heaviest.
WOM includes several tried and tested psychological experiments or installations like the 1834-created Zoetrope – a cylinder with slits cut vertically in the sides. When you look through them, the sequential images drawn inside this early form of animation technology appears to move.
Another favourite is the optical illusion ‘Ames Room’. Here, an adult standing in one corner of the room appears to be a giant, while another in the opposite corner of the same wall looks more like a midget. Or try the familiar Mirror Room – always a popular illusionary exhibit.
But WOM also has a couple of stand-out striking – even frightening – experiences. The White Room and the Vortex carry warnings that they are not for the faint-hearted. The first illusion challenges you to walk through a ‘white room’ full of steam. The installation represents the polar regions: “Everything is white. You cannot distinguish sky and earth, there is no shadow and no horizon and you lose your sense of depth and orientation.”
The Vortex is a giddy-making metal tunnel of whirling psychedelic-coloured lights that is difficult to navigate without losing your balance. But feeling unbalanced is the key to the exhibition, Dupuis says, as “we want to destabilise you in all senses of the word.”
The WOM also features videos showing actress Clara Laureys asking her father, the famous Belgian neurologist Professor Steven Laureys, to explain the science behind the experiments: “With this father/daughter dialogue we want to demystify the scientific world and show that it is within everyone’s reach,” Clara says. Being open to science and to new experiences, or people in general, is a good message in today’s multicultural society, she adds.
Messages aside, WOM overflows with interesting information and illusions that even follow you to the toilets – its walls challenging you to count poles or say if the cube pictured is in 2D or 3D. Billed as a place in which to learn and to have fun, WOM’s ethos is clear in one installation: two words that can be read differently according to how your eye perceives it. Whichever one you see first: the message is the same – ‘Science’ is ‘Magic’.
Open Tuesday to Friday 9.00-17.00; Saturday and Sunday 10.00-18.00. Standard ticket: €17.50 over 26s; €14.50 ages six-25; €55 family ticket.
Tour & Taxis (shed 4bis)
Avenue du Port 86C
Photos : WOM (World of Mind) © Tempora © N Lobet Pryzm