Radiohead - Kid A Mnesia

As a longtime Radiohead fan, I have actively gobbled up everything they’ve put to wax, so to speak. So when the latest Kid A Mnesia exhibition was announced during the Sony State of Play earlier this year, it was a bit of a head-scratcher, for sure, but I knew it was going to be interesting.

Now, after having finally played through a good chunk of it, I’m happy to say it is an experience well worth checking out for fans of the band, as well as folks interested in outside-the-box walking simulators.

The basic concept is a walk through Radiohead’s song library and accompanying album cover artwork (from frequent collaborator Stanley Donwood), with art installations that stimulate both the audio and visual senses. To put it bluntly, I imagine this to be the closest approximation to taking a stroll through Thom Yorke’s mind that one will get (outside of the possibility of a Being John Malkovich-style portal, which unfortunately has yet to be discovered). Point blank, any avid or even tertiary fan of Radiohead — or even fans of abstract art with a focus on the plight of humanity and societies in general — will find something worth exploring here.

The experience starts out in a stark, black-and-white sketched wilderness, with the “player” facing the title of the exhibit.

Radiohead - Kid A Mnesia

From there, as the experiencer, you are left to simply explore and witness and absorb. The level design, as it were, is sort of a labyrinth, with multiple branching paths that loop around and connect with out-of-the-way, off-the-beaten-path, more dedicated rooms or sections. Along your journey, as Radiohead songs warp and deconstruct and build and meld while you go from room to room, exhibit to exhibit, you are challenged with making heads or tails of all this on your own. There is no real dialogue or story here; this isn’t really a game, after all. Although you do cross paths with some big-headed, stick-figure-like humanoids of sorts; Radiohead’s version of NPCs.

And since this really isn’t a game, there are no fail states or win states; you simply exist within it, and you are left to decide how much or how little you wish to interact with it on a whole. It is meant to be revisited and explored multiple times, with each journey perhaps leading to new discoveries and revelations, or even just a better understanding of the context overall. As is the case with art of any kind, it is your own perception that shapes the work, and its impact is influenced by the viewer’s state of mind in the moment.

Radiohead - Kid A Mnesia

But, as a walking simulator — if I can be so glib to call it that — Kid A Mnesia really does a bang-up job leaving its own imprint on the genre. It makes for an interesting thought piece, and it offers a unique take on familiar material. And, as Radiohead fans well know, this material offers a wellspring of analysis on its own.

This digital exhibit almost feels as fresh as when the plastic guitar peripheral genre first started delving deeper into specific band libraries instead of just offering a disjointed collection of Rock ‘n’ Roll songs. It is an intimate and engaging exploration of Radiohead’s music and Donwood’s art, which makes for a unique and interesting romp through the history of this longtime collaboration.

If you want to see some footage, I’ve got some below, though I do think you should try to experience it for yourself if possible. A simple video won’t really encapsulate the full experience.

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