As I attempt to explain Bubbleverse -- "a cosmic portal into your childhood imagination" in SoMa, "offering a rare glimpse of this majestic hydrophysical phenomenon" -- please keep in mind that I was not on any drugs.
Bubbleverse is located at a little hole-in-the-wall venue on Norfolk, and the journey begins as the ‘Happiness Scientists’ raise a garage door, let you in, and instruct to choose either the purple or blue path painted on the concrete floor and walk along it until you reach the laboratory door.
There, you’ll experience a stalling gimmick where a scientist asks you about happiness, what makes you happy, your first experience with bubbles, if you’re a fan of chocolate -- and it’s all just "what the hell?" as you’re waiting for your turn and can hear muffled sounds coming from the inside. It's goofy and wacky and mad-scientist-y -- and sponsored by Nesquik, too.
“One of the Nesquik staff had experienced one of my prior installations," Bubbleverse creator and Chief Happiness Scientist George Zisiadis told me, without breaking character, continuing to speak in a Johny Depp in Willy Wonka voice. "They had approached us with the idea of collaborating [and] sponsoring a similar type of engaging and inspiring art experience.”
“I began thinking about the themes of the [Nesquik] brand which are fun, playful, happiness and began meditating on that,” Zisiadis said. “And pretty soon, the idea of bubbles emerged because, let’s face it, it’s pretty hard not to be happy around bubbles" -- not to mention shooting milk chocolate bubbles out of your nose in the grade-school cafeteria.
You’ll go inside and put on ‘standard issue happiness laboratory goggles,’ a lab coat, and bright-colored gloves with extended fingers, making it next to impossible to Instagram your life for the next 10 minutes. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll miff the happiness scientist by not smiling or making a funny face when he takes a group photo.
With so much hype in that first room, you’ll be like, "Let’s do this! Gimme some damn happiness!" and walk into the next room. It’s full of bubbles, bubbles everywhere, and chocolate fumes are being sprayed in to make you remember that, hey, Nesquik sponsored this. It’s also pretty dark, with flashing lights with kitschy pop music blasting -- reminiscent of all the middle school dances I regretted attending. Also there’s an uneven floor – I’d advise wearing tennis shoes.
OK, so I didn’t jump and squeal with excitement like others in my group did. Go with kids you will achieve happiness, because what’s better than watching children as they belly laugh uncontrollably with glee? I went through with other 20-somethings, and the only feeling I attained was a slight uneasiness.
Is the Bubbleverse-Nesquik duo an innovative team, or is this all over-the-top subliminal marketing in hopes of raising milky sales? Either way, it’s free and family friendly, and there are certainly worse ways to spend 30 minutes of your weekend.
Bubbleverse continues Sat/22 and June 28 and 29, noon-6pm, free. 43 Norfolk, SF. www.facebook.com/thebubbleverse