INSA was born to push boundaries. By the time he was about 13, he was doing graffiti in the streets of London. But when Vegas asked him to break the boundary between the real and virtual world, did he push too far?
“I think VR is the perfect medium for this project. Because … when I think about Vegas, it’s … a totally immersive, fully sensory experience. So, what better way than to try and express that than with VR, which is an immersive overload? I think the parallels with VR and Vegas are already there. … Is it real? Is it fantasy?”
That was INSA’s hook for the Vegas: Alter Your Reality project −
You can see his fascination between the real and fantasy worlds in most things he does. INSA’s art is mind-bending. His murals are hypnotic. His GIF-ITIs are mesmerizing. And his ability to come out successful each time he tries something new, makes you realize what’s possible. In one piece, he can make you question what’s real and what isn’t. He can make you feel uncomfortable, yet completely entranced all at once.
INSA embodies this concept. The real man behind the art remains a mystery. “There’s too much weight on the individual and not the work. I’ve got no interest in the public eye.”
Just think, given a lineup, most people couldn’t pick out the guy who’s created a revolution in graffiti art. Or the guy who’s created epic pieces for brands like NIKE, Netflix and Pepsi. Or the guy who literally created an outer-space GIF. The only thing most people know is the alias − INSA.
Vegas: Alter Your Reality presented a new medium to conquer − art in the virtual world. And as with anything new, INSA had some hurdles to navigate. “[It was] quite a challenge to think about all of the elements that you wanted to engage. … You want it to be interesting from every angle … you’re dealing with a whole environment.”
Before making this environment, INSA needed to get reacquainted with Vegas. He hadn’t been to the city since his early 20s, when he and his friend gambled their way through the city. “The experience was different to [all of the artists’] expectations of Vegas. My ideas when I first got the brief were based on when I was a partying 25-year-old. And coming to back to Vegas a bit older and maybe seeing more art. And seeing a side to Vegas that I haven’t seen before. That was a key element.”
This time he stayed in Vdara. He took a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. He got a glimpse of the art scene with James Turrell’s “Akhob” at Louis Vuitton. He ate at Andrea’s at Encore. And he experienced a retro side, walking the old casinos of Downtown.
Up a scale from the last time around.
“… When you fly in or drive in, or you arrive, you’re kind of not sure what to expect, but then this sense of … fear almost, because you have all this opportunity or all this fun to have. And it can kind of feel almost a bit overwhelming.”
And he wants you to feel that when you step into his Vegas universe.
“… I want there to be a slight anxiety in the beginning, or like an expectation of what’s going to happen … a kind of excitement, but also nervousness. … Almost like the excitement before a night out or before an adventure. …”
Anticipation is imagination running wild. For most of us, it’s that light, floating feeling. It’s the day’s duties morphing into a tantalizing daydream of sweet, savory and delectable freedom. And maybe it’s an uneasy eagerness to know you’re going to be okay.
But for INSA, that anticipation looks a little more … trippy. Only he, his mind and his paint brush could depict it exactly. But we can guess it’s some kind of insane kaleidoscope of vibrant colors and golden fountains. And it’s probably awesome.
Putting people into his unedited mind, (semi) literally gets a little tricky.
“So, I wanted to give this sense of these huge things around you. A real kind of shrinking of you and the experience growing bigger than you. You know, am I going to enjoy this? Then, kind of going and diving into it and enjoying the whole thing.”
The fantasy world of virtual reality can still cause real-world reactions.
INSA’s world, untamed, could have ended up being vertigo-inducing at worst, and hypnotizing at best. For the first time in history, Vegas had to suggest toning it down.
INSA’s piece will give you a reaction for sure. Without revealing too much of his art, a golden snake tempts you to hop on the ride that is Vegas in INSA’s imagination. How far you go … that’s up to you.