It’s common to watch a movie, read a book or visit an art museum and find yourself longing to be a part of the magical worlds created by visionary artists. You want to dive in and explore it for yourself, and you can, sometimes, through virtual reality (VR) technology, which is becoming more accessible every day. But where VR falls short due to limited scope, expense and distribution difficulty, a growing trend of experiential art delivers.
Large-scale, interactive art installations are popping up around the world. By now, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf or the Museum of Ice Cream in New York City (with plans to expand past its three other locations). Visitors experience a free-range, full-sensory exploration of environments created through a collaboration of DIY-savvy multimedia artists, sound engineers, performers and videographers, many of whom consider themselves outsiders in the art world.
For those who haven’t yet voyaged through such an attraction, it is loosely comparable to what happens when an escape room combines with a funhouse inside Willy Wonka’s factory. No knowledge of art history required and no “do not touch” signs in sight. Flash photography? Highly encouraged.
When executed to the caliber seen by Meow Wolf or Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors these handcrafted environments transport visitors to alternate realities that are visually pleasing and rich, with striking design and innovative audio and visual production. Look closer and you’ll uncover thoughtful, intricate details. Everything comes together to become a playground for the imagination.
You’ve likely seen them on your social feeds: picture-perfect snaps of your friends, family or Instagram favourites posing in stunning, eye-catching locales – perhaps laughing at the centre of a vibrant confetti storm, lounging in a pool of candy sprinkles or maybe floating in darkness magically illuminated by twinkly lights.
Even at a time when there is a buffet of streaming content to watch, experiential marketing is thriving. Meow Wolf brought in $6 million in revenue during its first year, thanks in part to Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin, who loaned $3 million to turn a 20,000-square-foot bowling alley into its first permanent installation.
Visitors pay upwards of $40 for tickets to these spaces with hopes of capturing artsy content to flex on Instagram. But beyond the more “superficial” entertainment value and social media posts, integrated storylines allow patrons to become the main character in the “world” of the installation. As Artsy describes one such experience:
The House of Eternal Return is built around the saga of a family living in Mendocino, California, who go missing one night after performing an experiment in their Victorian-era home. Visitors to the installation explore this structure, wander its manicured rooms and then venture (through a refrigerator door) into an alternate universe of Day-Glo forests, neon creatures, topsy-turvy mirrored rooms and interactive light and music installations.
With so much to drive enthusiasm, there are boundless opportunities for brands to dip a toe in experiential marketing. Corporate sponsorships like the ones in 29Rooms, an installation from Refinery29, offer brands a platform for people to have memorable and shareable interactions with products and services from any industry. According to artnet news:
29Rooms offers an all-new slate of installations from artists, organizations and corporate brands. So, you can get a makeover in a cherry-themed room from Revlon or register to vote at a New York City-style newsstand set up by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. Other highlights include Jose A. Roda’s temple to gender fluidity and the ACLU’s game show-inspired Know Your Rights room.
Highly interactive, shared experiences like these are a unique outlet for brands and independent artists to create lasting audience investment. Success of explorable, interactive art installations is a testament to artists’ innate ability to resonate with people and motivate brands to prioritize genuine collaboration and community outreach.