Matrix gets a-maze-ing

Published June 8, 2004 in the Midland (MI) Daily News

Beth Medley Bellor

    Daylight and vinyl combine for something entirely different, as the Matrix:Midland Festival hosts “Architects of Air Luminarium — Ixilum.”

    Artist Alan Parkinson said the sculpture arose from “a combination of circumstances from about 20 years ago,” as he was working on inflatable structures and saw something that inspired him to create an architectural piece.

    Ixilum is one of five structures that tour the world for visitors to walk through. It rises to 26 feet at its highest point and is 131 feet long by 131 feet wide.

    “The principal motivator for me was that I love the particular experience of luminosity when you go inside this totally enclosed environment,” Parkinson said.

    Once he has built a structure, he almost immediately begins thinking about what to do differently for the next one, he said. From start to finish it takes about a year, with three to four weeks of exacting design work to get the templates right. Ixilum took about three months to build in a workshop, using 6,000 individual pieces of plastic and about 30 seams.

    The actual setting up of a structure is “quite light in technical support,” he said, and takes about six hours. All the elements get zipped together and pinned down, then the blowers are turned on. Ixilum takes about half an hour to inflate.

    “One of the principal influences is the Islamic arch. There’s kind of like a modular element to Ixilum that functions to me like an Oriental bazaar,” Parkinson said. “Where the paths intersect there’s usually a very ornate dome that can be quite beautiful.”

    Visitors experience “a very nice sense of disorientation,” he said, but there’s no danger of getting lost. Maps on primary color paper are provided.

    “People are constantly surprised and often awestruck by the luminosity and the brilliance of light inside,” Parkinson said. “And the elements that create it are just so simple. It’s just daylight and vinyl.”

    Ixilum is wheelchair accessible. Strollers are not allowed; small children must be carried in arms and all children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Average time spent inside the maze is 20 minutes. Tours run every half hour from noon to 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Tickets are $6 and available at 631-8250 or

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