The former Head of Technology for Burning Man festival gets a first look at Meow Wolf’s new immersive Omega Mart spectacle in Las Vegas – and finds an audacious, interactive and multi-sensory experience that will feel like a homecoming for artists and psychedelic explorers everywhere.
I haven’t been to the original Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico yet, but I’ve already been through their new Omega Mart experience at AREA15 in Las Vegas twice this week.
In addition to being a delight to the senses and full of amazing art, interactive installations and wacky discoveries, it’s also full of some important things that we need the most right now after almost a year of pandemic… hope, fun, and a reminder that it’s all going to be okay again someday soon. We will go out and play together again. We will push buttons and play games, and dive into blinky light-filled environments and overstimulating experiences together, and it’s going to be fantastic.
I’m glad I ended up with early access – and that I got to go twice – because there is so much to see, do and discover that it takes a couple of visits to really explore every nook and cranny. After what I thought was a thorough first visit, I was surprised to find new areas and experiences the second time through. I think it will take a few more visits before I can solve the underlying mystery narrative. Only Meow Wolf can make a trip into a fictional work environment into the most artful experience ever.
The attraction/experience/gallery/theatre/playground/experimental lab/market is the result of a collaboration of almost 400 artists working in every medium possible – from digital to analogue, satire to theatre, and audio to audacious. I’d like to give a hearty HUZZAH! to Meow Wolf for engaging with so many artists and for creating a platform for them to showcase and help sustain their work. This is a shining example of how creatives with empowered ingenuity can turn unused or empty space into the hottest attraction in town. Commercial developers and retail real estate owners, take note!
Perhaps my one complaint is that there is no way to tell who worked on what pieces of the experience, and when I checked the credits link on the website was broken. Fortunately some of my friends and community contributed, so at least I had a few specific treasures to hunt for.
Two interactive robots, one working in reception and the other in HR, were created by my pal, the multi-talented wizard artist Tom Sepe. Sadly the cool illuminated circuitboard tie is not for sale in the Omega Mart… or at least not yet.
Known and loved by festival goers, digital fans and psychedelic explorers globally, artist Android Jones was also in the house. Literally in the house, as out of nowhere he surprised me coming out of a corner while we were hanging in a color-shifting white room covered with mandala shapes and turntable-inspired art.
Sprinkles of another psychedelic artist, the legendary Alex Grey, were included in the visuals here and there and in a very effective infinity mirror room full of his signature Chapel of Sacred Mirrors heads and projections.
For myself and many of us in attendance, this was our first real trip out of the house in almost a year, let alone to be swallowed up into a brightly colored, multi-story, push-the-button playground hidden in the back of a giant grocery store satire and shopping experience.
There are too many experiences and highlights at Omega Mart and AREA15 to cover in one post. This is just a teaser and an optimistic peek into the future. The future is not just attending one fun attraction in Vegas as we crawl out of a pandemic, but this is the mark and bright light of a new era of immersive, interactive and art-filled experiences which will be blooming around the globe.
For me, after producing Burning Man for almost 20 years, and for a huge and growing community of artists everywhere, this will feel like a kind of homecoming, and a touchstone for human creativity and fun.
For the rest of you, if you’ve never done experiences like these before, I highly recommend you start!
About the Author
As the former Head of Technology for Burning Man for 17 years, Heather Gallagher was at the heart of a global phenomenon which rose from a blank dusty uncharted desert canvas to become a pinnacle of expression and example of the power of the Experience Economy. She helped cultivate and shepherd a culture, community and organization dedicated to the art of the experience, co-created content, civic engagement, and powerfully transformative events. Heather left in 2019 to pioneer another uncharted creative canvas, when she designed groundbreaking immersive augmented reality experiences for consumer entertainment and brand activations. With her keen ability to blend creativity, technology and humanity, Heather currently consults and advises on projects ranging from remote gathering platforms to immersive technologies, experiential venues and tech-powered art-filled spectacles. Her mission is to create moments of awe and wonder that inspire everyone to manifest brighter and better visions of themselves and the world.
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