Bompas and Parr have just upped the weird. Yes, there are bars in London serving drinks out of shoes and there are speakeasies hidden behind fridges, but have you ever heard of getting tipsy via your eyeballs? Well, you're about to...
Bompas and Parr's new installation in London's Borough Market, entitled Alcoholic Architecture, features what is essentially a walk-in cloud of breathable cocktail.
Let me say that one more time for it to fully sink in: breathable cocktail.
It's been touted as "the world’s first alcoholic weather system for your tongue, where meteorology and mixology collide." The main event consists of a room filled with a dense fog composed of fine spirits and mixer - gin and tonic, to be exact! When visitors walk through this cloud o' booze, alcohol enters their bloodstream through their lungs and even (...wait for it...) their eyeballs.
Yes, it's a bit gimmicky (and their mention of the cloud's calorie-saving benefits is perhaps a bit much), but I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for a good gimmick, and telling me that I can get tipsy via my eyeballs is a pretty damn good gimmick.
Visitors are given a one-hour time slot to experience the cloud, which equates to one regular spirit and mixer drink. Protective gear in the form of a glorified plastic bag is provided, which helps safeguard your clothes and hair against the high humidity inside the room.
Be advised: a sleek art installation this is not. The theme (and I kid you not) is 80's Miami Medieval. That's a lot to cram into such a small space and the end result is spectacularly and unapologetically tacky. It's like Cyndi Lauper had a love child with Robin Hood and then decided to raise it in party-loving Miami. Yes, it's that weird.
As we descend the steps into the experience, the initial vibe is part medieval monastery, part Monster Mash. We're then ushered into what appears to be a locker room for a HazMat team and are encouraged to put on our glorified plastic bags. From there, the fog-filled room is ours to explore as we please.
At this point, things start to get a bit comical. The fog is so dense at first that people are forced to grope their way around the space, and any attempt to deeply inhale the sweet gin and tonic cloud quickly triggers a coughing fit.
In addition to the cloud o' booze, extra cocktails (ones that you actually have to hold in your hands - ugh, so much work) are available for purchase. As the installation sits next to a gothic cathedral and on the site of an ancient monastery, the drinks menu is mainly comprised of spirits and beers created by (who else?) monks. They're even promising to serve one of the drinks in an actual human skull "where the brains once were." Yeeeeeeeeah, I'll just take mine in a glass, thanks...
Just as we're all starting to get used to the idea of roaming about in a cloud of booze, a strange alarm begins to sound. At first we assume it's the fire alarm, but then realize it's actually their not-so-subtle way of telling us that our time in the cloud is now up.
As we all trudge towards the door, looking like something out of the movie Alien in our plastic HazMat suits, I have to laugh. Bompas and Parr have really gone into a whole new realm of weird with this exhibition, and I'm left feeling a bit baffled by what I've just experienced. But would I recommend checking it out? Hell, why not. Yes, it's a bit silly and it's also tacky as hell. But in all honesty, I was too busy trying to get eyeball drunk to really care.
The Facts: Tickets can be purchased via Bompas and Parr's website: www.bompasandparr.com. They cost £10.00 off-peak and £12.50 for peak times, and will get you one hour in the cloud. To prevent people from getting eyeball smashed (apparently there's only so much gin and tonic your eyeballs can take), tickets are limited to one per person per day.
Is it first-date material? It's definitely a bit of good, weird fun. However, be warned: the high humidity in the cloud can tend to leave people looking slightly sweaty and disheveled, so go at your own risk!
Many thanks to Bumpas and Parr for having me along to their press launch. As always, thoughts and opinions are my own.