New Modality Catalyst:
Benja Juster, Immersive Artist
Benja Juster is an artist and creative producer based in Oakland, CA, and the creative director of immersive event company Take 3 Presents. He's also a New Modality Catalyst.
Hey Benja! Tell us about yourself and your work.
My work spans multiple media including immersive theater, physical installations, game design, sound, video, and event production. I work locally to cultivate artist communities by creating events that act as platforms for individuals to find their creative expression and workshops to support them. I also partner with brands to shift their focus from only looking at the bottom line towards engaging their audience with storytelling and culture moments.
I’ve been designing experiences my whole life. From multiroom snow forts and haunted houses as a kid, I quickly evolved my passion, leading me to organize one of Burning Man’s largest villages in 2010. Then I continued working in festival and event production, leading up to when I joined Take 3 Presents as the creative director in 2014.
Take 3 Presents is an event production company behind several annual, multi-day immersive entertainment events in the Bay Area. Our mission is to orchestrate peak experiences that catalyze personal and societal evolution. At Take 3, I developed an art grant program that has funded over 500 artists, along with a theater department that has produced over 20 performances.
In 2015, I worked as an advisor for The Glint, whose tagline is "an experiential collective" — a marketplace that allowed hosts to book intimate, meaningful and artist experience for their community, team, and friends to engage. In 2016 and 2017, I produced multiple festivals and theatrical performances internationally as I focused on extending my network globally. In 2018, I joined Google as an executive producer and continued focusing on my work with brands looking to push the boundaries of storytelling. In my time there I opened up a 26,000 square foot customer engagement center filled with interactive exhibits, designed a suite in the new Chase Center, and a New York studio. Currently, I am the interactive producer for Google’s Pie Shop, prototyping interactive exhibits to be scaled and deployed around the world.
I believe that through experience design we can create opportunities for society to reprogram harmful patterns, allow individuals to connect more meaningfully, and provide a space for spirituality.
“I believe that through experience design we can create opportunities for society to reprogram harmful patterns, allow individuals to connect more meaningfully, and provide a space for spirituality.”
What’s a current cultural edge you’re excited to see people explore?
I’m excited to see people explore releasing stigmas around discussing death and trauma in social environments. I’ve been witnessing an uptick in socially accepted events and art which explore these issues in very personal and deep ways, while still keeping the subject matter accessible.
The beauty of framing discussions in the form of thematic and artistic events is that a wider net is cast and therefore, a more diverse dialogue is created. Groups like You're Going to Die and Re:imagine create a range of events from small poetry gatherings to multi-day festivals. Death Doulas are becoming trendier than life coaching. Releasing stigma is cultural edge-play, and millennials are invested.
I'm also excited to be witnessing explorations to harness experience design to bring attention to environmental justice. The trend is still in its early stages, but I predict that we’re going to witness a massive influx of large commercial events and festivals aligning with environmental justice movements. If we can make saving the world sexy and fun through interactive events, that will be an important step to preserving our planet.
Experiences like Blue Mirror give participants a chance to race against rising water levels within an escape-room-style game. Planet Home has produced a first-of-its-kind climate solutionist based art and music festival. Gray Area Foundation is hosting an experiential research lab and incubator for artists to focus on the earth as a living system. Environmental justice is not only necessary, but it's also the blueprint for emerging art and that's an exciting sign for what's to come.
Where can we find more about your work?
My website: www.benja.us
I wrote an article about how experience design can help society reprogram harmful patterns here.
I explored experience design theory on the Life is a Festival Podcast.
And I DJ drippy bass music that you can listen to here.
New Modality Catalysts
The New Modality is about experiments in culture — and the people who do those experiments. NewMo Catalysts are people who do things we admire and want to celebrate. They also help us stay accountable to our values. To learn more about NewMo Catalysts (or nominate someone to be a Catalyst), check out the Catalyst FAQ.
This profile was edited by Katie MacBride. Katie is a writer and co-founder of Anxy magazine. More about Katie at her NewMo profile
The information in our Catalyst profiles usually comes directly from the subjects, and we usually don't fact-check them. You can learn more about The New Modality's fact-checking and epistemological ideas by reading the page about our process for truth and transparency.