A dusty orange brick house at the top of Rialto Street in Troy Hill, once home to a family, then a group of squatters, has been transformed into an unusual art experience by German artist Thorsten Brinkmann using art, collectibles and everyday objects. They call it “La Hütte Royal,” or The Royal Hut. thorsten_house F7516_1500

Evan Mirapaul is owner of the house, an art collector and the commissioner of this art exhibit. He is waiting for me on the front porch as I arrive for my first visit. My heart is still pounding from the precarious uphill drive as he introduces himself and runs off his list of Do’s and Don’ts. Do go at your own pace. Do open any doors that will open. Do sit on furniture, and do get comfortable crawling through spaces. “Are you claustrophobic?” he asks. No. Okay, because he just likes to let people know it does get pretty tight in some places.

Don’t move anything—this is not an “interactive exhibit.” Don’t force doors open. Don’t rush. He opens the door and invites me in. There is a giant bell, a prop from a long-gone local children’s show, blocking the entryway.

Welcome to the theme of Thorsten. Where are you in space?

Hutt Royal. Photo by Brian Cohen.

La Hütte Royal. Photo by Brian Cohen.

I must think my options out. The bell is inches away from the staircase and also cuts off the hallway behind it, so I shimmy past it to the left and into the first of 15 rooms. There are bright lights and dim music. The room is covered in records, but I’m too distracted by the displaced fans, which are set up to spin like turntables, to look at the singers. And what are those? Yes, ears. So many things are spinning, yet it’s comfortably dizzying.

Mirapaul tells me that I will find a route that will take me into all the rooms of the four-story house. I can open doors, crawl through tight spaces, but make sure I go through the fireplace. Then he leaves, reassuring me that he’ll check in at some point.

“Okay piece of cake,” I think, wondering into the dining room where the record theme continues.

A wild art experience. Photo by Brian Cohen.

A wild art experience. Photo by Brian Cohen.

The table and chairs are covered in album covers. I find it awkward to walk around the table and sitting at it looks like a tight squeeze.

On to the boxing room. The same material used to craft the spinning ears has been made into at least a dozen fists, all suspended by wires and punching in all directions. It’s very in-my-face, so I venture down steps that lead into a basement boasting sculptures that are made from kids’ toys and molds of body parts.

Back up to the hallway with one too many closed doors. The first one opens easily, but it’s just a closet with mops and cleaning supplies. Oops.

The next is an abandoned bathroom with what looks like a brain on the counter. No thanks.

Photo by Brian Cohen.

Photo by Brian Cohen.

A few doors are stuck shut, but one leads to a staircase. Just as I’m about to choose the staircase, Mirapaul appears to ask if I’ve seen the tent. He opens the door and smushed into a tiny room plastered in woodland wallpaper is a camping tent and a deserted card game. “Has anyone touched the cards?” I ask. “Yes. And visiting students actually typed on the typewriter you will see.”

We shake our heads as he leads me in through a door I didn’t think opened. The room is big and feels dark and cozy. I begin to notice the faceless portraits and a reoccurring, little black dog. There are also bedposts for wainscoting and pieces of dressers in odd places. Mirapaul tells me to go ahead and crawl through the fireplace.

The theater at La Hütte Royal. Photo by Brinkmann.

The theater at La Hütte Royal. Photo by Brinkmann.

It’s like going down the rabbit hole. Hallways narrow. There are lights and wild patterns. I’m crawling on my hands and knees through, what I later learn, is a refurbished file cabinet. The rooms on the other side are cluttered—books, beds, and typewriters are all life-sized, but somehow this has become a noir funhouse where the walls are closing in. Rooms get smaller and objects get bigger. It’s an adventure in proprioception.