A peculiar, eight-foot-by-eight-foot wooden box, with an equally peculiar name, has appeared inside the sleek, minimalist tasting room of Rex Hill Winery in Newberg.
It’s the Goose Cube – a mobile art installation that creator Steven Ochs calls a “distributed model museum.”
The outside of the cube is a work of art created by Portland letterpress studio Neu Haus Press. But there’s more. Paying customers scan a QR code, which opens a hidden door on the cube. Patrons can step inside and find themselves surrounded by mirrored walls.
The Goose Cube offers an individualized, immersive art experience, suitable for private introspection or social media selfie sharing. It’s a product suited for the coronavirus pandemic, when many traditional forms of art consumption have been largely inaccessible.
And if a pandemic is a time for self-reflection, here’s the perfect place for it.
Ochs hopes to create multiple Goose Cubes, each featuring the work of a different artist inside and out.
“I love museums, but there are so many works of art that are stuck in the basement,” Ochs said. “And at this time where there are so many tumultuous things happening, and the world seems like it’s fraying a little bit, it’s almost as though we need to get those things out of the basement and out into the streets.”
His daughter, 6-year-old Oswin, came up with the name. It’s called a Goose Cube, she said, because being inside it “gives you goosebumps.”
Ochs said the design firm where he worked closed its Portland studio last year, a casualty of the COVID-19 economy. After he lost his job, he came up with the business concept for the Goose Cube project. Host sites will pay a fee to receive a cube, and a portion of ticket sales will go to the artists who designed it.
Ochs created the mirrored interior of the first cube, and Neu Haus Press developed the exterior, comprised of letter press prints in black, ivory and red that have been layered, torn and pasted onto the plywood cube.
“Any opportunity to keep pushing the limits of what print making is, and how it’s seen and where it’s interacted with, and melding it with sculpture and 3D, is super exciting,” said Hannah Bakken, the print studio manager for Neu Haus Press. “I had so much fun producing this.”
The cube’s Dada-inspired exterior design features shapes taken from a 1940s font called Alpha Block. Pasting repetitive “Xs” to encircle the cube, designer Chris Chandler hoped to mimic the look of human figures linking hands.
“You’re in this box, you want your mind to go, you want to escape, and we want something on the outside that’s going to protect you a little bit,” Chandler said. The design could be viewed as a fence, or as “bodies that are holding hands encompassing you to go inside and just let all your emotions go.”
With Chandler’s design, the Goose Cube feels like a puzzle box waiting to be solved.
Ochs hopes to release more cubes into the wild. He’s working with Portland artist Damien Gilley on designs for Goose Cube No. 2 and looking for artists to partner with on future projects.
“I’d like to see Goose Cubes at airports, at colleges, retail locations,” he said. “I want to see people say, ‘We’re going to go Goose Cubing.’”
The first Goose Cube’s temporary home was inside The Armory theater, the home of Portland Center Stage in Northwest Portland. The cube then moved for a stint inside the EcoTrust building in downtown Portland, but never properly opened after the governor’s second shutdown order in November. Ochs was in the midst of selling tickets to his Goose Cube experience when Gov. Kate Brown ordered a two-week freeze, forcing him to refund ticket sales.
On Thursday, the Goose Cube arrived at its new home at Rex Hill Winery. While the tasting room is still open for bottle sales, food service and wine tasting have moved outside to the patio.
“Since we can’t have people seated inside, we thought, why not use this as a time to host something that is exciting and a surprise for people and support local artists along the way,” said Carry Kalscheuer, director of sales and education at Rex Hill.
The cube is fitted with holes along the bottom for air flow, and for the time being, Ochs has removed the cube’s ceiling to improve circulation. Visitors are asked to use hand sanitizer before entering, and the cube’s interior is regularly cleaned.
Standing inside the box is, at first, disorienting. Walking on mirrors might trigger a slight fear of heights while looking down.
But after a period of adjustment, visitors will see multitudes themselves, quite literally, from every angle.
You are alone inside the cube.
But you are also infinite.
“It could appeal to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways,” Chandler said. “You could be spiritual inside it. You could be dancing inside. You could be Instagramming yourself inside it. It has a lot of possibilities.”
Ochs hopes people leave the Goose Cube with a sense of self-appreciation.
“People are beautiful, and I think everybody has beauty inside of them,” Ochs said. “My hope is that each person walks out feeling a little bit of that.”
If you go:
The Goose Cube is located inside the tasting room at Rex Hill Winery, 30835 N. Hwy. 99W in Newberg. The tasting room is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Goose Cube tickets are $9 and can be purchased online at goosecubeproject.com. Only one person is allowed at a time inside the cube. Masks must be worn, and skirts are not recommended.
Rex Hill also offers daily wine tasting on its outside patio. Reservations are required and can be made at rexhill.com.
— Samantha Swindler, email@example.com, @editorswindler
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