“The lunatics are running the asylum,” deadpans Shane Smith, referring to the artists whose work led thousands to a studio space in New York’s Meatpacking District on Saturday.
It’s after 8 p.m., and Smith—co-founder of Vice Magazine—looks a bit blushed, shiny, and in need of one of the Solo cups filled with free beer the visitors are swilling. Beyond the doors of the uniquely quiet media suite, crowds of hipsters, artists, music fiends and other rungs of the creative class travel throughout three floors of art installations and music performances. A Spike Jonze short premieres in next room while Gang Gang Dance plays to a crowd parked in the building’s loading dock eight floors down.
Click Image Below to View Some of the Art and Artists That Appeared at The Creators Project
It’s day one of year one in the timeline of the Creators Project, a five-city conference series created by Vice and Intel to foster a sort of creative community and provide artists with a platform to display their work. At least, that’s how Smith and Deborah Conrad of Intel explain it. Right now, it feels like a big party with some cool interactive and tech-driven art. Less asylum, more funhouse.
On the first floor, loud house music and dim lights greet attendees. Some grab photos with friends in front of MOS Architect’s Rainbow Vomit, a structure of foam blocks patterned by strobe lights. Others veer around Takeshi Murata’s mural of cascading colors that spills from the corner walls to the floor. Upstairs, visitors stand in line to take a stab at DSP’s [Z]ink, a stereoscopic 3-D painting tool (part Photoshop, part Etch-a-Sketch, part videogame—in three dimensions). A few rest on the floor, mesmerized by Muti Randolph’s cubic light sculpture, which responds in sounds and light to viewers’ movements. Others whip out their Flip cams to catch friends prodding the motion-sensored cameras in front of reactive LED screens, in UnitedVisualArtists’ Triptych.
It’s all just part of the art. “One of the ways we judge the success of an installation is whether people take pictures of themselves in it and upload it to Facebook and Flickr and things like that," says Ash Nehru, software director of UVA, a British art collective.
In yet another room, a fedora-wearing visitor sits in a glass dome as a 3-D scanner traces the curves of his face and the brim of his hat, projecting the scan to the rest of the room as if encased in mercury. The faces of all the visitors will be saved and uploaded online, to eventually become part of multilayer compilation.
“It’s an organism built by the scans from city to city,” explained Kirby McClure, who, with Julia Grigorian, created the piece. “It’s like making digital mummies,” added Grigorian. According to the duo, the scanning technology has never been used outside of a lab setting before.
For much of the crowd, clad in fashions addled with irony (neon grandma shorts here, a gold jumpsuit there), the day was as much about music as art. Indie rock and pop players Sleigh Bells, Neon Indian, Interpol, and M.I.A. appeared, as well as South African “rap-rave” group Die Antwoord. In one music-themed session, poster boy DJ Mark Ronson, producer Sam Spiegel, and Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo indulged onlookers by creating an original song, complete with a vocal hook provided courtesy of an audience member. ”The boundary between art and play is getting foggy,” joked Eddy Moretti, executive producer of Vice-owned online TV network VBS.tv, as he shepherded the panel.
The event will continue to London, Sao Paulo, and Seoul before it ends in a three-day finale in Beijing. It’s designed to accommodate an unplanned progression, with the iterations in the other four cities, as well as the project’s potential in future years, free to take on whatever the members of the collaboration deem new and worthy.
For Vice, it’s a genius way to understand its audience while fostering a community of contributors that can allow them to maintain the non-conformist, salty edge they’ve used to thrive for more than a decade. The trend of publisher-as-curator, marketer and multiplatform content factory is becoming more common as traditional media outlets struggle to stay afloat, but Vice has been doing it since before the apocalypse appeared. Its empire includes a music label and an antonymous ad firm, Virtue.
“Unless you’re in with the best sort of photographers and writers and artists and musicians, you’re not going to be able to do anything,” says Smith. “These kinds of things are important to us because we can develop relationships.”
For Intel, it’s a smart way to be part of the action. “The best way to experience our brand is to experience our technology,” says Conrad, Intel’s chief marketing officer. “This is a way to celebrate the intersection of art and technology and focus on finding the ways tech is bringing art to life.”
And for the thousands who showed up to see what all the hype was about, it was something different to do on a summer Saturday in New York City.
Lauren Streib is a reporter for The Daily Beast. She was previously a reporter for Forbes.