Enter The King’s Mouth, An Immersive Art Experience
A colossal chrome head stares out from the window of the front gallery at Ogden’s The Monarch with bulging mirror eyes and a crown of silvery orbs bubbling upwards from the forehead to the ceiling. Music and lights spill out of the open mouth, and an extended pink tongue invites guests to crawl in and experience what’s inside. This is The King’s Mouth, an immersive art installation created by Wayne Coyne of psychedelic rock band The Flaming Lips and presented by Ogden Contemporary Arts (OCA).
Since its debut in Baltimore in 2015, the exhibit evolved over time like a Disneyland ride spawning a cinematic universe. First, Coyne devised an experimental art installation in the shape of a giant head that blended striking visuals with music, resembling a statue of a mythical and decapitated god-king. Then, a surreal story emerged around the head told through Coyne’s paintings and poetry. Viewers expected that since the project came from Coyne, music about it must exist. So The Flaming Lips created a full album, King’s Mouth: Music and Songs, in 2019 with narrations from Mick Jones of The Clash. For the Ogden showing, new animations and The King’s Party held at the exhibit started the night off in a flash of color and energy.
The King’s Mouth naturally grew out of Coyne’s career-long exploration of the intersection between visual art and music. The Flaming Lips’s bombastic concerts feature confetti, light strips and Coyne crowd-surfing in a plastic bubble, all amplifying the musical performance to create a memorable experience. “The more that you can interact with the crowd, the more we’re all doing something together and the more you can have a feeling about what you’re doing. It affects you emotionally,” Coyne says.
“The King’s Mouth naturally grew out of Coyne’s career-long exploration of the intersection between visual art and music.”
Coyne packed that vibrant energy inside the mouth of the cozy chrome head. The intimate setting lets the lights, sounds and emotions wash over anyone inside, leaving them to reflect on the experience once they reemerge. “There’s just a couple of you in there. It’s like, ‘What is this?’ ‘This is cool!’ ‘What did it mean to you?’ ‘How’d it feel to you?’” says Coyne. “It gets it down to a much smaller level.”
Venessa Castagnoli, Executive Director, first discussed bringing a visual arts component to the 2020 Ogden Twilight with concert series Co-founder Jared Allen. To accomplish this, they turned to Coyne and The Flaming Lips. “COVID obviously ruined everything in 2020, so we revisited the conversation once a vaccine was available,” says Castagnoli. “Long story short, Coyne was super excited about the idea and we locked it down thanks to Weber County RAMP funds.”
The exhibit fits perfectly with Ogden’s wider programming as an ascendent center for the arts. “Ogden’s art scene is growing fast,” says Castagnoli. “OCA is located right in the heart of the Nine Rails Creative District, an area that is changing how outsiders look at Ogden, and The King’s Mouth provides a world class art experience for our community.”
“Ogden’s art scene is growing fast.”
During his career of touring, Coyne noticed some American cities becoming “progressive” places where people produce bold and exciting work. Ogden’s adventurous artistic spirit and community make it an ideal place for Coyne’s exhibit. “I think it’s mostly just a lot of cool people that have a little bit of say in what can happen here in Ogden just got together and said ‘let’s do this,’” he says. “This installation is just the most thorough and best one we’ve done. They’ve really done amazing work getting it all put up. All the videos, animation and the giant front room with The King’s Mouth are just spectacular.”
Experience The King’s Mouth at the OCA Gallery in The Monarch (455 25th Street, Ogden, UT) open until September 19. For more information about this exhibit and future installations, visit OCA’s website ogdencontemporaryarts.org.