Pop artist Andy Warhol famously predicted that “in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”
In today’s fast-moving, media-obsessed world, that 15 minutes often translates to a viral Instagram Reel or TikTok clip, and the world of art and commerce has evolved not only to create that moment but to chase it as a means to connect with the masses.
Whether it’s an immersive art installation at your favorite museum or gallery, or a branded activation at a music festival, creating space within which the consumer can shine on their own stage has become the name of the game, and no one’s doing it quite like Mokibaby.
Born Veronica Gessa, the Miami-bred, bicoastal multimedia installation artist, experiential expert and production designer creates explorable spaces that are vibrant, chic and cheeky. Her work often uses neon, television sets, rotary phones, vintage limousines and other slightly nostalgic elements to create an idyllic and slightly sinful playground of the senses, in many ways inspired by her own childhood in the Magic City.
MokiWorld at III Points 2023
Mokibaby is a partner with production collective Media Pollution, and she’s has been tapped by everyone from Gucci to Elf Beauty, Canon and MTV to create enthralling and explorable spaces that do more than just catch the attention of passersby by inviting them to be a part of an active visual story.
“When you’re creating a branded moment, I look at it as an opportunity to give people an emotional response,” she says. “I don’t want things to be overtly branded or so in your face, and I think that’s why a lot of brands come to me. They know I’m going to make it artistic and that people are going to create memories with their brand, rather than just seeing their logo seven times and remembering it subconsciously.”
In October, the artist celebrated her largest and most personal installation to date at Miami’s III Points music festival. Mokiworld was an interactive lounge and cocktail bar where attendees could catch their breath, have a drink and stage more than a few photoshoots, whether sitting in the back of Moki’s luxurious limo, under the red neon rainbow, posed atop the shining silver seating or just bathed aesthetically in the area’s hazy, vibey glow.
Mokiworld was just one of a handful of Mokibaby installations discoverable around the festival grounds, which is fitting because Gessa created her first-ever installation—a pyramid of vintage TV sets—at the second-annual III Points in 2014.
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Before she got involved in the art space, Gessa worked with III Points co-founder David Sinopoli as a co-producer on the inaugural festival in 2013. Soon after, she began working with Miami-based SuperMarket Creative Agency where she learned the ins and outs of producing bespoke experiential events and brand activations.
SuperMarket was brought on to help produce III Points in 2014, and Gessa’s involvement with both existing companies created a bit of a conflict. Rather than straddle both positions, Gessa was invited to create an art installation near one of the festival’s main stages.
“[David Sinopoli] was like, ‘Why don’t you make the art that you want to see at the festival?’ and I’ve always loved antiques,” Gessa says. “I’ve always loved vintage and collector’s items, vintage electronics and cinema—and Nam June Paik is one of my favorite artists of all time—so I made a pile of TVs at Skate Space. Artists like Cashmere Cat and Kaytranada, who’s now one of the biggest artists in the world, we’re playing for like 100 people in a little room. It was so amazing, and that really opened me up to what a really fun and cool way this was to express myself.”
Mokibaby teamed with Vixen as a brand partner in MokiWorld at III Points 2023
The next few years saw Mokibaby expand as she took on the role of art director Rhonda INTL and its series of A Club Called Rhonda nightclub events. There, she’d hone her design aesthetic creating moody spaces and sparkling fantasy worlds for the underground house DJs and queer-positive attendees to get lost inside, pulling heavily from her background as an acting student enrolled in Miami’s New World School of the Arts.
“When I’m creating a world, I look at it from an actor’s point of view or from setting a stage,” she says. “I’m thinking not just about what I want to see, but about the experience that everyone’s having from their point of view. In acting, the question they ask is ‘What do you want,’ and you have to know what the other person wants too, because and you have to be able to give it to them. It’s using a lot of the skills that I got from New World, and I’m so grateful that I went there because it really does make a difference.”
Her sensual and sophisticated perspective at Rhonda and continuing collaborations with III Points eventually brought brands like Canon and Meta calling, who hired Gessa as a production designer, looking to use her unique and on-trend aesthetic as a means to connect with consumers via campaigns, commercials, events and more.
“It’s about creating an emotion, sharing moments with someone and discovering something where the brand is involved, and then [the customer] will always remember that brand in union with that memory,” Gessa says. “I’m looking at things not from a marketing perspective, but on a human level, an experiential level, a psychological level of ‘what’s going to really enrich someone’s life for the better?’ And then that’s how you can market to them.”
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That savvy was on full display at another Mokibaby activation at this year’s III Points. “La Wawa” is an out-of-commission school bus that Gessa and collaborative artists convert each year into an intriguing lounge. This year, it became the site of her partnership with Hugo and Bella Poarch, who hired Mokibaby to present their fashion capsule to III Points attendees.
Beyond creating the space, Gessa was involved in a larger campaign, pitching and organizing an influencer campaign that saw performing DJ Nala, Lexis Brumback from Netflix' Cheer and more posing on the scene with Poarch in promotion of the campaign.
“At the level of not just being the artist for Hugo, but also doing all of the creative marketing for them as well,” Gessa says, “that was like, ‘Wow, I have come full circle.’”
Next up? Mokibaby tackles its largest project as the creative director for Simon Fuller’s forthcoming Academy of Pop. The former Spice Girls manager and creator of American Idol is opening the school as a safe and creative environment for upcoming talent to blossom, learning the ins and outs of the entertainment industry.
Gessa and Mokibaby are tasked with everything from creating the brand identity to the interior design of the school, crafting “little experiential installations” inside the hallways and usable spaces to foster creativity throughout the academy.
Mokibaby just signed with WME agency to bring her bold vision to even more brands in the coming year. She’s also working on an upcoming collaboration with her old partner David Sinopoli, a line of elevated, design-forward smoking accessories called Smokibaby. Mokibaby will also be back in Miami for the upcoming Art Week, collaborating with Nylon House and e.l.f. Beauty on more exciting environments that feel altogether otherworldly and yet right at home.
“I always put so much of myself into everything, and I always create from my child. I really love that people can make memories with things that are inspired by my memory,” Gessa says. “My mom was in nursing school and worked three jobs after my parents split, and I would watch a lot of movies. Movies were my babysitter, you know? I always want to include the TV [in my work] because it’s like, do I exist for it? Or does it exist for me?”
Follow Mokibaby and see more of her art and installation work on Instagram.
Photography by: Ventigoth, Carlos Gallego