An unprecedented tilt brush art show featuring young artists' voices on social issues
An art show like no other, Open Your Eyes invites guests to don a VR headset and view over 18 pieces of art drawn around a social issue, all completely created in Tilt Brush by artists from all disciplines. Initially planned for guests of the Hofstra Presidential Debates, Open Your Eyes was such a resounding success that it was invited by the Obama White House to the second South by South Lawn (SXSL), where the experience was shown to members of government as well as to the lucky public who managed to be chosen for a ticket.
MTV’s Elect This campaign was looking for a way to engage with young people during the pivotal 2016 election year using emerging technology and approached Viacom NEXT to pitch several ideas.
They were interested in using VR as there was an excitement over the technology but were unsure of the throughput of an experience. They also wanted to make sure that whatever the execution of the project, that there might be a chance to give voices to creators whom might not have had otherwise an opportunity to get in front of lawmakers, civil servants, and attendees of the Hofstra Presidential Debates.
Inspired by the idea of a New Museum exhibit using strapless VR headsets as a relatively frictionless, handheld window into a world; we laid out similar strapless headsets on a counter, but instead also augmenting them with a separate headset with hand controllers on a small stage nearby. This headset was connected to a projector, allowing for passersby to view an artist create an artwork in situ.
In the 6 months leading up the Hofstra debates, we also sourced, reviewed, hired and trained over three dozen artists from all walks of the aesthetic life – architects, mural artists, painters, sculptors and so on – in how to use Google’s Tilt Brush as a medium.
Bunny Protest - Grace Miceli
“In ‘Bunny Protest’ the cartoon characters aim to subvert a traditional understanding of entertainment. Instead of escaping or zoning out, the viewer is asked to wake up and engage with reality. By using bright colors or cute imagery the initial reaction might be that of amusement but with this piece I’m using those indicators as access points to information and ideas that are traditionally difficult to discuss in an attempt to normalize their truth. Utilizing language borrowed from Black Lives Matter, Jenny Holzer and internet activists and placing the viewer in a daydream scenario, where the floating politically minded bunnies mimic clouds, I’m hoping to inspire even the smallest instances of activism, whether that might be donating money to a charity, attending a rally or just starting conversations about these topics in their social circles.”
Erase Racism - Wane COD
Wane’s work focuses on racial equality. Born in the United Kingdom’s West London, Wayne is of West Indian descent and lived in England and Grenada until he was 7 years old. In 1978, Wayne’s parents brought their 2 sons to the U.S. and moved to New York City’s North Bronx. The elevated tracks soon caught Wayne’s eye and he slowly became obsessed with watching and admiring the many great graffiti writers of the late 70’s and early 80’s. In 1983, Wayne became ‘Wane One’ when he painted his first train. This was the beginning of a lifelong love for graffiti and the culture that surrounded it. Subway cars and train walls were his favorite canvases. He had an unquenchable thirst for painting his pieces onto these metal surfaces, thus transforming them into mobile works of art. Other writers knew his style was significant and a bond was quickly established with many serious subway painters. In 1988, Wane started experimenting and exploring other medias, such as painting with acrylic on canvas, denim jackets and jeans. He then began airbrushing onto t-shirts, which became popular in his neighborhood and gave Wane his first taste of being an entrepreneur. Wane was also one of the first writers to make the transition into Graphic Design and has designed logos for hip-hop groups like Gangstarr, Jeru the Damager and Group Home. Presently, Wane divides his time between painting, running his company Writers Bench, designing for Sean John Menswear, Nike, and Reebok and traveling around the world. Wane still resides in the Bronx.
eyes - Hayden Zezula
“The topic I chose is climate change and pollution. I wanted to create a visual representation of something we often don’t think about and give it a face. ‘eyes’ looks into you and forces you to acknowledge its existence.”
Naturalization The Game - Fabiola Lara
“Naturalization: The Game is a virtual reality art piece focused on the U.S. immigration system. It's a criticism of the current U.S. immigration system and an educational experience on the so-called ‘pathway to citizenship’ available to immigrants today. By approaching the subject as a giant game board, I’m able to demonstrate the strategic and ‘lose-lose’ situation the current immigration system is for undocumented immigrants. This immersive game board forces the viewer to experience how many immigrants are left with no option but to immigrate illegally. Undocumented immigrants do not willingly chose to immigrate illegally as much as there are few accessible options left for those looking to immigrate or those already in the U.S. illegally.”
Not Your Baby - JCORP
“’Not Your Baby’ is an immersive experiential painting that speaks against today's rape culture. Featuring my signature characters posing in the nude in a rainbow theatrical setting, the girls proudly declare that they are 'nobody's baby', even and especially when all eyes are on them!
Pride Parade - SASHALYNILLO
“I created a scene based on what I've been fortunate enough to witness each year at the annual pride parade. This ties into my theme of LGBT because it is the pivotal event of the annual pride season which is still incredibly important as it stands to reminds us all of the social injustice the community still faces. Despite significant victories (most notable gay marriage being legalised in all 50 states), there is still some way to go. The parade is the one time of the year that the LGBT community comes together to celebrate what has been achieved so far in this fight and to be proud of their sexual orientations which makes up a major part of who they are. It is an event full of freedom, fun and acceptance not only for members of its community but also family and friends who show their support - exactly what the community represents to me. The parade also stands to remind us all what still needs to be done to grant LGBT individuals complete equality.”
PULSE 49 - Tyler Wallach Studio
Tyler Wallach’s piece focuses on LGBTQ rights. Tyler Wallach is an innovative artist and designer living in New York, NY, recognized for his bright and boldly colored street-art characters on both canvas and clothing. Tyler comes to New York, from Texas, with 5 years of experience painting and independently producing large-scale solo art shows, a clothing line, and most recently, a capsule collection of 3D printed and precious metal necklaces. Tyler has also adopted a form of interactive art by painting live at events throughout the country. Compassion for the LGBTQ community is a constant inspiration and has led Tyler to produce many works a year to be auctioned off by national charities with 100% of proceeds donated to at risk youth.
Refugees Are Human Beings - ThankYouX
ThankYouX’s piece focuses on refugees. THANKYOUX became well known on the streets of Los Angeles for his large iconic Warhol wheat paste. Signing THANKYOUX underneath in a gesture of anonymous gratitude for Warhol's aesthetic of rebellious integrity. The name accidentally became the artist's identity. Inspired by the pop tropes and bright colors of that NYC art scene, THANKYOUX has exhibited paintings and sculptures in London, Los Angeles, Miami and in New York. He's created large installations at the Sundance Film Festival, painted a custom car for Lexus, and collaborated with Sanrio for the Hello Kitty Art Show. THANK YOU X is also a DJ/producer and has released original tracks and remixes through Dim Mak Records and Casablanca Records and has performed all over the United States.
Stuck on the YellowBrick Road - Gumshoe
Gumshoe’s work focuses on gender equality. Perhaps the most startling aspect of Angela China’s meteoric rise in the New York City art scene is that this self-taught, realist painter did not begin painting seriously until moving to Manhattan in 2010. As a child growing up in Baltimore, Ms. China’s artistic skills were apparent. But for a myriad of reasons, she stopped painting upon entering high school. Now in her Manhattan studio, Ms. China (pronounced Key-nah) has re-found her calling as an artist.
The Wrong Hands - Dave Persue
“I created a piece of work that displays the cause and effects of misused firearms.” Descended from a line of acclaimed artists, Dave "Persue" Ross continues family tradition and is recognized by his colleagues and peers as a true artistic pioneer. In the late 80's, Persue (pronounced 'per-SWAY'), found himself irresistibly drawn to the world of graffiti. With an energetic, illustrative style, his technical
Untitled - Shaun O_Connor
“I have created an immersive text based artwork that contemplates the loss of life amongst American children in relation to gun violence.” Shaun O'Connor works across a range of media and materials to craft images, objects and installations that carefully consider notions of inscription, writing and everyday communication. The artist will often painstakingly recreate pieces of found script as three dimensional objects or site specific installations. In
Untitled (Execution Chair) - Sam Stewart
According to Sam: “Using an interest in furniture as a point of departure and the entire space delineated by VR sensors, Untitled (Execution Chair) is comprised of 1,400 black vertical hash marks evenly spaced in x,y, and z directions. The hash marks create a three dimensional cube like shape of virtual lines (think rain shadow) that indicate every life lost to death penalty executions from 1976 to the present. The three dimensional block of black hash marks contains images of two chairs, facing each other: a highchair and execution chair, outlined with the same hash marks in purple and yellow. This drawing is essentially a diagrammatic rendering of statistics, but responds psychologically to the condition of the VR headset as a kind of veiled, disorienting, and isolating experience while the physicality and repetition of movements recalls manual processes of traditional painting and sculpting—albeit without the reward of a tangible result.”
Who’s Watching Who Watches Us - Illma Gore
“The role of a political artist is to express different points of view regarding global politics and social standards. A white man and black man race each other with only two rules. 1. Once they start, they cannot stop running until they reach the unforeseeable finish line. 2. The white man gets a mandatory 30-minute head start. The black man waits for thirty minutes and then begins to run. Halfway through the race, the referee announces that head starts are abolished from the rulebook; all previous head starts are forgiven and forgotten about, as they are unfair advantages. The men are now considered equals on the track because the ‘head start’ no longer exists. The race will not start again and there will not be another. Will the men make it across the finish line together?"
World Peace - Renda Writer, Handwritten Artist
“My work ties in with my current project, "The World Peace Mural Tour," which is an art tour, peace campaign, and personal commitment to spend the rest of my life creating "World Peace" murals all over the world. I think achieving World Peace is a lot easier that we may think, and I believe that working toward World Peace as a global goal will naturally help us to solve all other issues along the way.”
My Role: Creative Director
After being approached by MTV’s Public Affair’s division, I conceived of 5 treatments, pitched, and championed the overall vision for this project.
Once the project was green-lit and awarded, I directed the vision of the overall project, managed the P&L, and served as the lead point person for MTV and our external partners; in addition to managing our internal team in sourcing fabrication for the physical portions of the artwork. Together with Creative Producer Matt Hanson, we interviewed and screened over 60 different artists before arriving at the final 18. I spent time with all of the individual artists, discussing their visions and goals for each artwork, and offered recommendations on ways they could make full use of the fluidity of space in virtual reality; including explaining to many sculptors that they can now forget about the limitations of physical reality and ignore gravity!
When our project was selected to be at the White House, I served with Casey Acierno from MTV Public Affairs as the main project leads to the Obama Administration, which included managing resources, timeline, and personnel for the event.
Thank You X
Original Pitch Deck & Competing Concepts
Early on we pitched to MTV several different other options to tie in with the presidential debates. No surprises which one they greenlit eventually.
- Political Art Show
- Kinetic Type
- Tour of White House
- 360 Video
I designed a simple setup which allowed both bystanders to watch a performance and also for headsets to be viewed in a touch and go setting.
Giving the space at Hofstra a walkthrough before the presidential debates. We added rows of lenticular prints of the artwork to increase throughput in the event the headsets that we had on the counters proved to be too popular. That turned out to be a wise decision.