J.Demsky on how the Metaverse is Changing Travel and Art

Sculpture of Demsky in the salt flats of Santa Pola
Sculpture of Demsky in the salt flats of Santa Pola | © Heineken
Photo of Cassam Looch
Editorial Manager27 April 2022
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Visual artist J.Demsky was part of the graffiti boom of the early 90s and has subsequently travelled from his Spanish home to more than 50 countries to share his work with a wider audience. Using new concepts and different techniques to remain a leading light in contemporary circles, we found out more about how his latest collaboration is challenging the way in which we consume experiences with one another. Can virtual reality ever beat the real thing?

What do you prefer: hanging out in the metaverse or real-life experiences, like travelling and connecting with friends?

Speaking as an artist, I’m especially interested in how the worlds of art, entertainment and technology could converge in new ways, and the endless new possibilities for creativity and artistic expression this could create. But the metaverse has its limitations. It’s no substitute for real-life experiences, for experiencing the vibrancy of the world we live in. This is why I loved being a part of the Heineken Silver campaign, although it was incredibly fun to design parts of their metaverse space, including the bar, but it was clear how much better the experience would be in real life. The best place to do all that is here in the real world…at least for now.

Why is real life travel so important?

Travel enables us to experience the richness of life. When we immerse ourselves in a culture, art, or history that is beyond our own, we expand our world view, which makes way for new ideas and perspectives. My art has taken me to more than 50 countries and, in each new place I visit, I take a small piece away with me that helps expand my artistic output, giving life to new ideas.

Why is it important to have group experiences and connect with people in the real world?

For me, real world experiences can’t be beat. That was really the core message behind the idea of launching a virtual beer in the metaverse that you couldn’t even drink. It was a light-hearted, witty way of conveying that message. We connect on a deeper level when we’re together in person and show up in a more authentic way. I believe there’s an intimacy that we can only fully experience when we’re together in the truest sense of the word, and that’s something that the digital realm hasn’t quite managed to replicate just yet. The metaverse certainly has its intriguing propositions, but you can’t beat a real-life experience with friends.

Demsky sculpture Cartagena | © Heineken

What is the inspiration behind your artworks for the launch of Heineken Silver that you previously mentioned?

I tried to transfer my HPRSPC concept into the project. It is a very specific concept within my artwork where I tried to offer an immersive experience to stimulate the senses. Where perceptions of space and time get blurred. It simulates a place created by infinite cubes and vibrant RGB colours.

Do real places you’ve visited inspire your digital artworks?

Of course, my inspiration comes from a consistent exploration attitude, and the influence of real places and experiences is a lot higher than those in the digital world. Nature offers us everything. For me, travelling is a learning source – it gives us the chance to understand where we live and who we are. At the end of the day, everything comes from within. Although my work is digital, I always want to find a physical medium to express my art. The launch of Heineken Silver allowed me the opportunity to manifest my vision in both the digital and real-world, across the campaign.

What are some of your favourite artistic destinations/galleries to visit?

In my mind, there are three destinations I love to visit, and they all link to one segment of time, these are:

Tokyo: It has incredible architecture and designs that look like they were designed 50 years from now.

Mexico: The old structures across the country, give us an insight into the way we lived, and the inspirations people had in a previous time.

Spain: My home, will always hold a place in my heart, I am constantly inspired by the world around me and there is nowhere I spend more of my time than Spain.

Where have you always wanted to go?

I would rather ask when instead of where. I would love to visit my favourite spots in a different era/period in order to understand their history a lot better.

There are many places in the world I would love to go to. However, I always find it more intriguing to think about where I would go in history. I love the thought of travelling to a different period of history to gain a deeper appreciation of who we are.

Are there any historical places or film/TV locations you would want to visit that don’t exist anymore? Could the metaverse make that real?

The opportunity to travel to historical places would be a dream come true for me. I don’t believe the metaverse could make it as realistic as that, or at least to the point where I would want to experience it. I think if you experienced historical places virtually, you would lose the essence of those special and nostalgic places. Furthermore, these are ancient references and experiences that might not be interesting for the current population, as in today’s world, the way we consume our surroundings is much quicker.

Heineken Silver Bar designed by Demsky in Madrid | © Heineken

How will the metaverse change travel for the better?

I’m intrigued by the concept of being able to travel anywhere – perhaps even to any time – within the virtual world. But I don’t think the metaverse will ever be able to replace travel in the real world. Instead, we may begin to see a convergence of digital and physical spaces, blurring the lines between both. I recently worked on a project to design a virtual brewery in the metaverse using the platform Decentraland. Now, I’m helping the brand to bring that space into the real world too, at destinations all across Europe – starting with Madrid. It’s a really exciting, cutting-edge project: translating something that has only ever existed online into a real, physical space. Although you can travel to lands all over the world at the click of a button, I don’t see a way that the metaverse can beat travel in real life.

What do you like to do when travelling?

Travel for me is an exercise in creativity. It’s an opportunity for me to take in new surroundings and translate these new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes into art. I am constantly trying to expand my artistic output, playing with juxtaposing ideas – the future and nostalgia, creativity and science. And to do this, I draw inspiration from the world around me.

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