Open Your Eyes: MTV’s Elect This Virtual Reality Experience Lets Fans Step Inside the Art of Change

On Nov. 8, 2016, Viacom employees got the chance to open their eyes to the most important issues of this election season—through an incandescent virtual reality (VR) art show at Viacom Headquarters.

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One of the VR works presented on Nov. 8 2016 about gender equality. Photo courtesy of MTV Elect This and Gumshoe

MTV’s Elect This campaign promised its audience substance over scandal. It succeeded in highlighting issues that matter most to their millennial audience such as climate change, social justice, national security, immigration, and health care— in a stunning marriage of innovation and artistry.

For Open Your Eyes (MTV’s Elect This campaign’s VR exhibit in partnership with Viacom NEXT) MTV asked 18 artists to illustrate these issues. These artists, ranging from street artists to sculptors, used Tilt Brush to convey their thoughts on topical issues affecting Americans—issues that continue to impact our world.

Shaun O'Connor's piece focused on gun violence. Courtesy of MTV Elect This and Sean O'Connor.

Shaun O’Connor’s piece focused on gun violence. Courtesy of MTV Elect This and Sean O’Connor.

On Election Day, I experienced the neon whirlwind of political activism. The exhibit took place in a nondescript conference room at our Times Square headquarters. Once I placed the VR headset on, my surroundings transformed into a scintillating light show. A wave of profound, emotive energy pulsed through my body.

Pulse 49, by Tyler Wallach Studio. Photo courtesy of MTV Elect this and Tyler Wallach Studio.

Pulse 49, by Tyler Wallach Studio. Photo courtesy of MTV Elect this and Tyler Wallach Studio.

MTV Public Affairs campaign coordinator Justine Bunis guided me through the first display: Untitled, by Jon Santos For Freedoms.

The work was inspired by elements of national security: Contemporary warfare, terrorism, drone strikes, news headlines, and fear mongering.

Santos elaborated on the campaign’s website. “Drawing an explosion in a 3D virtual environment is a compelling way to immerse oneself into a split second of a highly dynamic and destructive moment,” wrote Santos.

I treaded through an explosive blast of white lightning.

The sensation of being present amid nuclear warfare was psychologically, emotionally, and physically disturbing—yet brilliant. And that’s precisely what I wanted to glean from the experience.

How does Untitled make you feel?

I removed the headset, startled to find myself back in the safe confines of Viacom Headquarters, instead of a white-hot blitzkrieg. I took a deep breath and prepared for the next display: SacSix’s The Pill. 

This Technicolor lightshow evoked the sensation of dancing at an electronic music festival and waving glow sticks through the air.

But this piece wasn’t about rave culture. The dazzling art depicted universal healthcare. At first, I didn’t grasp the connection. But as Bunis guided me across the room, I saw neon-pink lips surrounding an oblong shape. This was the pill.

I slowly twirled in a circle, and noticed the lime-green “RX” letters dotting the perimeter of the gleaming galaxy.

On the website, SacSix elucidated the meaning behind his work. “The Pill approaches the healthcare issue from two sides,” said SacSix. “The mouths swarming the pill represent universal healthcare and the idea that all people should have access to medicine. The large, singular pill also represents the idea of pharmaceutical monopolies and their control of drugs and pricing.”

What does this piece mean for you?

MTV’s stunning, political force lives online, spreading the message of human rights and social justice. Click here to open your eyes.

 

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