Many immersive art installations transport viewers to fantasy landscapes. But with Arcadia Earth, the enchanting world on view is our own.
The soon-to-open Las Vegas Strip experience will allow viewers to wander through 15,000 square feet of magic. Its 15 art exhibits will remind us of the unique beauty of our own planet … and the unprecedented peril it faces due to human actions.
In addition to being visually stunning, each of the exhibits will aim to do three things, according to press materials: educate, enlighten and empower visitors.
For example, guests will walk into an otherworldly cave made out of plastic bags by Polish-born artist Basia Goszczynska. On the aesthetic level, there’s the enjoyment of a beautiful space. The white bags are illuminated by colored lights, so that they resemble the cool interior of an arctic ice cave. On an educational level, viewers learn about the harmful waste created by countless single-use plastic bags.
If this were a high school science class, things might end there, with depressing statistics about how we’re all doomed. But Arcadia Earth takes things one step further with a call to action that can be accomplished immediately. Each exhibit contains QR codes with links to ways to help now.
For creator Valentino Vettori, Arcadia Earth is equal parts artistic and moral undertaking. As a career, the Italian-born experiential artist has created fleeting experiences for the trade show and fashion industry. One day, Vettori says, he looked at the 14 truckloads of garbage created from an event and thought of its impact. “Oh my God, I am the problem,” he recalls thinking. “It’s me. I need to change.”
He imagined a future day when his two young daughters would ask him what he did to save the environment. “I wanted to tell them that I actually did everything that I could possibly do,” says Vettori, who’s originally from Verona, the city, he points out, that’s famous for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The New York-based Vettori seems to carry some of Shakespeare’s creative energy and Romeo’s love into this project.
Vettori mortgaged his house to build the first Arcadia Earth in New York City. The plan was a success and drew the attention of a local developer, who helped bring Arcadia Earth to a Strip location that’s larger than the original.
The magic of Arcadia Earth is the way Vettori and the stable of artists he has hired transform seemingly intractable global problems—such as biodiversity loss and deforestation—into an experience that’s somehow uplifting and beautiful. In addition to physical creations, holograms, augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics and even scents complete the experience.
One of the show highlights is a room that feels as if it’s breathing. The dark-yet-glowing walls slowly inhale and exhale, representing the lungs of the Earth, phytoplankton. “In this work, columns of rippling surfaces create an immersive and expansive environment that speaks to the scope and nature of oxygen production,” artist Charlotte Becket writes in a statement posted at the room’s entrance.
A weirdly fun room by artist Pamela Moulton is sure to invite a million selfies with its organically shaped, swinging red chairs. Addressing the problems born from fishing, the interactive exhibit is made from reclaimed fishing nets. During a preview tour, Vettori jokes about the amount of cleaning it took to remove the smell. “By creating a knotted and visceral red environment that viewers can engage with, the work raises the public’s awareness of overfishing and the waste associated with this industry,” Moulton writes in her statement.
No Strip attraction is complete without a gift shop, and Arcadia Earth is no exception. Here, however, the merchandise is about cleaner, more ecological living. In fact, the show’s website—arcadia-earth.com—hosts an entire marketplace of home goods that are less likely to pollute.
As for whether Las Vegas tourists will be interested in a lesson alongside their fun, Vettori seems optimistic … that he can lure in people with joy.
“I’m just opening the door, showing beautiful things,” Vettori says. “We don’t actually highlight the concept of climate change. We highlight the concept of entertainment. … Nobody wants to be educated. People want to be inspired.”