Though most of the exhibition is covered with such rules, there are some things you are meant to touch, like the many interactive elements. We make our way upstairs and discover a pool of light in front of a projection screen. Stepping into the light-circle causes Hello Kitty to start playing piano onscreen, while stepping out makes her stop. Another game involves “feeding” an animated Hello Kitty projected on an ice-hockey table, and yet another challenged the visitor to “bicycle race” against Kitty to get to school on time. Besides these attractions, there was the opportunity just to explore Hello Kitty’s heavily logo-ed domestic space, from her Hello Kitty toaster and toilet-paper to her Swarovski crystal portraits.
The most unintentionally disturbing was Hello Kitty’s own bedroom, which featured an interactive sound piece. Little girls could come up to a microphone and whisper good-night greetings to an animated Kitty projected on a screen. If the words were soft enough, Kitty would then trot away, the projection would fade, and a bedroom set would become visible through the screen, with a “lifesized” Kitty doll tucked into bed and frankly, looking like a corpse.
Though these twisted dollhouse spaces are fun, cute, and occasionally creepy, the exhibition would be nothing without the “design gallery” section, where over 100 young and dynamic creators reinterpreted the timeless Kitty image and concept however they liked. Ranging from the reverent to the borderline-perverse, each designer and artist had a unique take on Hello Kitty.
In the window of a full-sized cartoonish cottage, Norwegian team Yokoland made Hello Kitty into a Russian nesting doll, to ponder what strange secrets might be inside her (one of the interior dolls seemed to be a Hello Kitty Hitler, but to avoid controversy this label was knocked down). A Hello Kitty plush head on a long giraffe neck twined out of the cabin’s door, evoking a ghost, and on the facing wall, a grid of clean graphics reinterpreted Hello Kitty’s all-important red bow.
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