Great art is made by any means possible, and the new documentary Meow Wolf: Origin Story takes that idea, opens a fridge and disappears into a portal with it, flying into a frontier of infinity.
The idea of Meow Wolf, now a bona fide cultural phenomenon and "beast," as described by the founders, is dissected and presented in the film. Passion, brilliance, improvisation and love are all stressed in the beast's creation, where anything from a painted razor to a ship can be used in ways never imagined before. Meow Wolf's endeavors have of course evolved into many different forms since starting—a rundown warehouse venue in Santa Fe's Triangle District morphed into a stage play and then into interactive exhibits and, finally, the one-time bowling alley turned massive monument to interactivity, neon and walking sim-esque narrative experience. This, obviously, was the game-changer in the collective's history.
The founders of the project are successfully presented as the unique individuals they are, much more of an intense family than a gaggle of colleagues. Co-founder Vince Kadlubek, for example, is cast as the visionary, always thinking 10 steps ahead of everyone else. His emotions are on his sleeve, even in talking about simple aspects of the group's past, present and future vision. There's also a heavy emphasis on the abolition of any type of hierarchy within the founders, especially in its inception. Everyone's input was reportedly valuable and necessary. A special mention, then, must be given to early member David Loughridge, whose art, friendship and personal strife are beautifully captured. His ultimate death and resounding influence are easily the most moving parts of the documentary.
Directors Morgan Capps and Jilann Spitzmiller's biggest strengths lie in illustrating the mechanics of the endeavor. The how of the art is painstakingly captured, though it leaves the viewer longing for more of a why? For someone unfamiliar with the specific style of Meow Wolf's artists, it's easy to get lost in the narrative. Origin Story is also filled with loads of animation. Occasionally jarring, sometimes frivolous, the visuals are a constant within the entire experience.
The most fascinating visual creations, then, are to the credit of co-founders Benji Geary and Emily Montoya; a sort of inter-dimensional Batman and Robin pair. Whether Benji is applying yellow paint to his face and drinking a FourLoko, dancing in a computer simulation or impersonating a middle-aged patron behind a monitor, he is captivating.
And so it seems like the sky's the limit for Meow Wolf's immediate future, their sights set to expansion in Nevada and Colorado. As the documentary reaches its conclusion, the achievements pale in comparison to what lies ahead, almost presenting a big question mark. When one engages in organized chaos, is the journey ever really over?
+Thorough documentation; intimacy and art creation
-Distracting animation; occasional lack of narrative coherency
Meow Wolf: Origin Story
Directed by Capps and Spitzmiller
Jean Cocteau Cinema, NR, 98 min.