Mike Winkelmann is probably better known as Beeple. Meeting him, you might notice his dark-rimmed glasses and white T-shirt/button-down combo. But it’s his motivation, focus and discipline that would stand out. He’s arguably one of the most influential graphic designers and visual artists around. He creates futuristic short films, graphic art and concert visuals. His portfolio is impressive to say the least. He’s done projects for Katy Perry, One Direction, Zedd, Justin Bieber, the list goes on.
The Vegas: Alter Your Reality project was going to be very different than anything Beeple had done before. Creating art for the virtual world excited him. It felt futuristic and cutting edge like a lot of his work. But it wasn’t going to be easy. “The biggest [challenge] for me is that … there isn’t framing. The person can look in any direction. That changes a lot of the little tricks you can do.”
Before beginning, Beeple had an opportunity to immerse himself in Vegas.
He checked in to ARIA. He notes the design detail in the lobby and the unique design language of Las Vegas in general. He was already impressed, the way a first-timer might be. But this wasn’t his first time in Vegas. He had been here once as a young bachelor, with a group of friends to do as young bachelors do. And many other times to create visual effects for DJs up and down the Strip. As Beeple puts it, “… I kinda felt like I’d seen everything in Vegas.”
This time, Beeple was keeping his eyes wide open.
He saw KÀ by Cirque Du Soleil. A show that has been called one of the most lavish and technologically advanced in Western theater. For some, KÀ puts the mind into another dimension … a futuristic dimension.
He walked Fremont Street under a 550,000-watt LED-lit dome. He was nudged in the direction of a 12-story zip line known as SlotZilla. Eventually, he conceded. (You’ll have to see his piece to know how it went.)
Finally, Beeple stood 550 feet above ground on the High Roller. Just as he reached the highest point on the observation wheel, the sun was setting over the Strip. He looked out over 4.2 miles, hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms, and 8,000 megawatts of electricity beginning to glow. He saw new rooftops, towers, streets, restaurants, clubs, theaters. … And, it hit him.
… It made me realize one, there’s tons of stuff I haven’t seen. And it gave me more of an appreciation for this sort of scope and scale of everything that [Vegas] has to offer.”
In Vegas, no one can say exactly how their visit will play out. It’s always a step ahead. As Beeple explains, “Vegas is a place that’s always changing, always in flux, always coming alive. There are so many possibilities.”
Now, Beeple’s virtual universe was making sense. His job wasn’t going to be to direct his viewer’s attention, but to deliver that same sense of excitement that comes from the endless possibilities, the shifting and evolving and the future-feeling of Vegas.
And with that, he built his “Futuristic Playground”.
“One of the main things I want people to take away from my piece [is a] sense that everywhere you look, there’s something happening or something changing. [Vegas] is such a dynamic place; it always feels different and new. You could see the piece again and have it be different to you each time.”
In Beeple’s universe, you’re in control.