Yesterday I took a drive all the way down King Street. All the way down King Street. Past Santi's. Past the tattoo parlors. Past the strip clubs. I wasn't entirely sure where I was going, and I wasn't entirely sure I was in the right spot even when I got there. But when I saw people walking through a small door in the side of a massive, seemingly abandoned warehouse, I followed suit.
I had heard of the King Street Extension before, as it is to be the site of the Raven Cliff Company's Pacific Box & Crate development and, just recently announced, the location of Edmund's Oast's freestanding brewery, Edmund's Oast Brewing Co. But until I parked my car near Magnolia Cemetery and entered through the side door of the warehouse, I had no concept of just how big this space is.
Sound + Light, the brainchild of Arkansas-based artist Craig Colorusso, is a five-day, 80,000 square foot art installation within the warehouse at 1505 King Street, though after attending last night's preview, it it is hard to say whether the factory was simply a location for the exhibit, or an integral aspect of the exhibit itself.
Colorusso teamed up with Enough Pie, a local nonprofit organization that uses art and creativity to inspire community engagement, to bring the haunting and immersive exhibit to life in Charleston. The title sponsor of the event is BoomTown, a web-based software company specializing in marketing solutions for real estate.
Upon entry, I was nearly immersed in darkness and given a glowstick wristband. The only source of light came from the hundreds of tea candles lit throughout the space and the greenish lazer light projection against the enormous metal garage doors. The warehouse is the previous home of the Pacific Guano Company and later, Dixie Box & Crate, which occupied the space up until 2005.
Even arriving at 6 p.m., just as the preview was kicking off, I noted the dimly lit room to be already full with people. A long community table centered the room lit by candles where attendees were posted up, snacking on local eats being served at tables lining the perimeter of the space. Tattooed Moose served up brunswick stew while Roadside Seafood ladled she crab soup. Workshop plated a fall pumpkin salad and Brown's Court provided fresh baguettes smeared with local butter from Lowcountry Creamery. And there was certainly enough pie—an entire table of options both savory and sweet from local bakeries.
The Lowcountry Highrollers, their faces painted as excellently eerie sugar skulls, skated around the room with trays of drinks to grab from—wines from Spanish Vines and Country Vintner and beer from Edmund's Oast.
Getting past the food and bar stations, I could hear a low hum echoing from the depths of the warehouse. "Can I go back there?" I asked my friend, pointing up a cement ramp that led away from the main room and into total darkness.
"Yeah, you have to! That's where the exhibit is!" he said, motioning me in the direction of the dark and the deep bass reverberations it was emitting.
As I had arrived early, I found myself, for the most part, alone in the cavernous space. I walked past the DJ booth, set up for the dance party that was to take place from 8 to 10 p.m. with music by The Soul Preservation Society of Charleston, and past a giant projection screen that read, "The Charleston Guild of Gentlemen Puppeteers." As I wandered further and further back in the darkness, I had the distinct feeling of Alice in Wonderland when, after growing too big, she suddenly finds herself getting smaller and smaller, everything around her seeming enormously out of proportion.
The DJ booth and projection screen seemed mere specks of light in the distance as the room took on a hazy quality, perhaps from a hidden fog machine, and I came upon Colorusso's first metal cube, emitting light through the pattern of holes cut on each side of its surface. The sounds I had been hearing came from the cubes, and the strength of the light emitted changed with the frequency of the sound. It grew dimmer, then stronger, then dimmer again. I moved through the space, encountering more and more of these cubes, drawn at any given moment to whichever was producing the most light.
I was somewhere in Charleston I've never been (which is a tough feat after a quarter of a century living here), experiencing something I'd never before experienced, and I was entirely alone. There was an eerie calmness to it all, and I was glad I'd come early, before the dance party could begin and well known songs could snap me back to a familiar reality.
The night continued with performances from the Charleston Annex Dance Company and Charleston Characters Dance Company and there was even a saxophone player hidden within one of the inconspicuous white cyclinders I hadn't thought to notice earlier. A smaller room off to the side played a creepy film on loop, making it all the more odd in its constant repetition.
And I left thinking, Charleston needs these somewhat strange events, and more of them. The wildly varying age range of the crowd evidenced the accessibility of Colorusso's installation. I'm no art critic, but I'd like to think the best art leaves you with a feeling; it evokes some kind of emotion. It doesn't necessarily have to mean anything to you, or even make sense, but after leaving Sound + Light, you're bound to feel something.
Sound + Light opens to the public today through November 1, from noon to 6 p.m. each day. The proceeds of the Preview Experience party helped make the exhibit free for the public for the five days following. Food trucks will set up outside the warehouse each day from noon to 2 p.m. and Enough Pie will set up picnic tables among Colorusso's Sun Boxes which were not on display during the preview due to the rain.