The key to enjoying the permanent House of Eternal Return exhibition in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is not comparing it to Sleep No More. It is not, after all, a moody piece of immersive theater; it’s more like an actor-less intergalactic playground, beamed in from a much weirder dimension. Spearheaded by New Mexican art collective Meow Wolf and backed by Game of Thrones creator/man-about-town George R.R. Martin, the House of Eternal Return inhabits a long-abandoned bowling alley in an industrial stretch of town.
More than 100 mostly local artists worked on the 20,000-square-foot, 70-room, choose-your-own-adventure installation. From the outside, it resembles a rambling Victorian. But enter through the front door and you start to notice that things in this house are just a little bit… off. The family members that live here, although not present, are conspiracy theorists. Panels under the stairs lead to secret tunnels and the kitchen fridge is a portal to a psychedelic underworld. Depending what door you open or path you follow, you might encounter life-size neon aquarium trees, trippy musical mushroom caps, luminescent mastodon skeletons, a 30-foot harp with laser beams for strings, or ’80s-themed arcade games with endless free play.
It’s good fun to explore every nook of this supernatural dreamscape, but don’t expect much in the way of a linear storyline. House of Eternal Return is like a film set abandoned mid-scene, with its accompanying lighting and sound effects left on to full effect. Or, as artist/co-owner Golda Blaise once put it, “Instead of walking up to a painting, you walk into it.”
FYI, that painting gets ridiculously crowded in the evenings and on weekends. Your best bet: Visit on a weekday, during regular school hours, when school is in session. The fewer kids on hand (and that includes teenagers), the stranger and more surreal the environs feel. Less Romper Room, more Twilight Zone.
1352 Rufina Circle, Santa Fe, NM; 505-395-6369.