Unites States of Goodwill

A partial of the panoramic “The People’s Lawn” by Bettina Hubby

If the space in front of the White House were given back to the people, what gesture, activity or ritual would you bring to uplift it?

So is the ask from Bettina Hubby in her online virtual reality experience and panoramic pictorial collage releasing Election Day, "The People’s Lawn: Bringing the White House Back to the People." Featured among the 45 creators, activists and healers is A+R founders Rose and Andy, their daughter Nina and dog Gypsy. Viewers watching the 3-minute video can position their cursor over the image to move it 360 degrees.

This Los Angeles artist's signature has long been sweeping in style, rallying a vast and diverse network into her collaborative, high-production art statements. Besides those of us featuring in the work, she was joined by Steven Rimlinger behind the lens and scoring the VR work, which was produced by Rory Mitchell of the creative digital agency The Mercantile, and her intrepid studio manager Sacha Baumann.

To wit, this is not a first-time participation for A+R. Bettina first came into our lives as a client to the original Silver Lake location. Soon, that shop space served as both pop-up gallery and shop for Bettina's work and party spot back in 2007.

The People's Rabble Rousing Organizer: Bettina Hubby

An embracing joie de vivre and optimism echoes through her projects, so how could we not accept the invitation to be a part of her latest "collective cacophony of goodwill?"

We were all asked "to perform a dedicated practice for the social good." We chose teatime: Tea time encourages connection with others and ourselves, civility, good health and mindfulness.

Here, Bettina talks to A+R about "The People’s Lawn":

A+R: In a nutshell, what is this project about?

Bettina Hubby: The impetus was to help raise spirits and shift the collective focus with a playful and alternate reality of the White House lawn. It is about the power of the mind to create different possible future outcomes, the flexing of our visualization muscles to focus on a future or scenario we’d like to see happen. As Quantum physics reminds us, there are endless possibilities and realities available at any moment, so I wanted to focus on an outcome I envision to make that reality more likely.

A+R: Why did you entitle it “The People’s Lawn”?  

BH: It brings to mind Abraham Lincoln’s immortal speech, wherein he defined democracy as government of the people, by the people, for the people. To open up the lawn of the White House to the people seemed an appropriate gesture. The Obama administration brought back the term (and the attitude) of the People’s House. It would be a blessing to have this practice reinstated. It would be a blessing to have reinstated. 

A+R: Why was it important to you, as an artist, to make this statement?

BH: As an artist and humorist, I wanted to aesthetically address a subject that is important to me in a playful way, and to out-picture the surrounding conflict. We are all experiencing a loud political, social, and health crisis, and in order to bring in a new system that works for us all, we have to converse about what kind of world we’d like to have, and then take action. Small actions can usher in great change. The conversations I’m witnessing far too often involve fear, worry, anger, doubt—instead of being solution based.

Family tea time on the green screen.

A+R: How did you choose the participants?

BH: I reached out to a dream team of friends and muses who make a positive contribution to the community in their respective fields whether it be charitable, healing, comedic, artistic, educational, etc. The point is, everyone has a gift to give. As I started to look for examples of the do-gooders, the more I found and the more hopeful I became. As these collaborative projects go, ideas for people I didn’t know also arose, such as the Gangster Gardener Ron Finley, and the juggler Michael Rayner, both who delighted me by agreeing to take part. I thought of so many more people to invite, so perhaps there should be a part II!

A+R: Your art has long involved so many collaborators coming. How was it executing this project during a time when coming together can be deadly?

BH: I craved a project that would connect me to others. So this was a way to see a lot of people, but in private time slots in a spacious ventilated studio. The “crowd” I created was a virtual one. It felt poetic to be able to have a semblance of normalcy, community and closeness in this virtual space. I was very careful to make everyone feel comfortable and safe. As the project grew, the feeling of the cacophony of goodwill was truly amplified in my mind and the minds of the participants. I’m hoping the viewer will feel it as well.

A+R: This is a 2-part work: the panoramic photograph and a 360-degree virtual reality experience. How can we all view VR experience?

BH: There are three ways to see the work actually, and details are on my website and my Facebook and Instagram bio. I am also open to having private viewing appointments with the Oculus headset, all safety protocols in place.