Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 12:41 p.m.
Invisible City, the creation of Skewed Vision's Sean Kelley-Pegg, takes you for a walk through the North Loop in a spy-themed scenario, where you'll visit various businesses and outdoor landmarks. Not to be confused with Secret City, last weekend's sprawling event highlighting under-appreciated locales throughout Minneapolis, Invisible City is an interactive smart-phone activity. The project has a similar end result to Secret City, however, as it makes you see things you may have never noticed before about Minneapolis.
Before heading out, you must download the Layar app to your iPhone or Android, and make sure your phone is fully charged. The application is a bit clunky and confusing at times, but it can also be very cool. It's key to make sure that you shut off the auto lock/sleep function if possible, and turn location services on. You'll also need a piece of paper and two quarters.
It all starts at Janine's Coffeehouse (119 N. First St.). On the windowsill, there's a picture book, called Little People in the City
, that tells a story through photographs of miniature people. The app gives you instructions about a certain page to scan, which triggers a video to watch (make sure you're connected to the coffee shop's wi-fi). A young man named Ty (played by Billy Mullaney) will give you an urgent message about secret documents, and how you need to help him. Ty tells you about a clue you can find within the coffee shop, and then you're on your way to the next location.
At each stop, you'll listen to an audio recording from various characters, including Ty's girlfriend (Rebecca Yoho) and a mysterious visitor (Vladimir Rovinsky), who will give you clues and information about the invisible city.
You'll travel to places such as House of Balls, a storage facility, and a Dunn Brothers, among other locations.
Although the project is called Invisible City, it encourages you to observe everything around you with a closer eye than you would otherwise. While you might be looking for some secret entrance, really what is happening is that you're becoming more aware of what you see, hear, and smell around you.
In all, it's a great idea and it mostly works well. There a beautiful moment when Ty's girlfriend reads a poem on the on the Washington Avenue Bridge. The juxtaposition of listening to the piece and looking up at the steel truss and the sky is quite lovely. Be aware though that if you get a call or text and have leave the app, it can be difficult figuring out how to get back in. It's definitely advisable to familiarize yourself with Layar beforehand.
Also, the story itself is a little vague. Inspired by the novel Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, the narrative mostly leads you from clue to clue, without many twists and turns or a story arch. At the same time, the experience is most interesting when it veers from the story entirely, instead allowing you to fully take in the world around you.
Invisible City technically runs through Sunday, June 30, but as Janine's Coffeehouse isn't open on Sunday, it's best to go today, tomorrow, or Saturday before 2 p.m.