Virtual reality is something that could be described to you, but you’ll never fully understand until you experience it.
“I feel like it’s the same with Las Vegas—you can’t really do it justice,” laughs East Coast digital artist Mike Winkelmann, better known to fans as Beeple.
One of five artists featured in the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s newest virtual reality campaign, Winkelmann is speaking with me from Miami, where their final project, Vegas: Alter Your Reality, is debuting at the Magic City’s annual Art Week.
Those strapping on the VR helmet will be immersed in a slightly different interpretation of Las Vegas, one based on the individual experiences of the artists. Alongside Winkelmann, R&R Partners (the LVCVA’s long-time creative agency) recruited São Paulo native Adhemas Batista, French street artist FAFI, Canadian James White, aka Signalnoise, and “GIF-iti” artist INSA to take part in the campaign.
Each artist was invited to tour various Las Vegas attractions—Fremont Street, the High Roller, Cirque du Soleil, etc.—and re-create the experience using their unique skills. For Winkelmann, who admits he felt like he’d “seen everything” in Las Vegas, that meant stepping back and viewing the city as someone who’d never been there before.
“What I wanted to do was interpret that ‘first time on the Strip’ feeling and reimagine what it would be like in the future,” he explains. “You’re on a path and things are unfolding in front of you [with] holographic buildings coming out of the ground and flying cars—that sense of crazy things happening all around gives people a new perspective.”
Adds R&R Partners executive creative director Arnie DiGeorge: “If you’ve ever walked down the Strip, it’s like everyone is wearing a headset because they’re continually looking around. It’s basically a 360-degree virtual experience.”
The artists had never done virtual reality before signing on to the project, DiGeorge explains, but were selected based on their international reputations and ability to “represent [Vegas] emotionally.”
“You put freedom of art and expression together with the freedom of our city, it’s going to inspire even more emotions,” he adds.
After Miami Art Week, Vegas: Alter Your Reality may become a pop-up experience for future LVCVA endeavors and will be featured among the experiences on the tourist agency’s Vegas VR app.
“There’s no other city like Las Vegas,” Winkelmann says. “It has such a unique perspective and a unique look and feel. This is just a hint of what their experience [can be].”