Mariah: Acts of Resistance, “Legally Trespassing” in the Metaverse

Heather Snyder Quinn

Launch screen, Location Navigation, Paris Geolocation Installation
Captures of NYC Virtual Installation and Memorial Signage
App in use in NYC location

Mariah: Acts of Resistance is a collaborative initiative that challenges societal power systems, including big tech and big pharma, by “hacking the metaverse” as an act of protest.

Specifically, Mariah is an augmented reality experience (available on the app store) that narrates stories of historical injustice through the backdrop of significant cultural institutions and the corrupt funding that has allowed them to exist. Named after Mariah Lotti, who lost her life to opioids at 19 years old, the app enables viewers to “legally trespass” at significant locations across the globe (with more locations forthcoming).

Initiated in 2020 in NYC on a bootstrap budget, the app originally transformed the Met’s Sackler wing into a virtual memorial for Mariah and others who have lost their lives to the opioid epidemic. Exploring AR’s potential to revise historical narratives and its ethical implications, the app augments Sackler* donated art with “virtual memorials”—audio and video of the lives of opioid victims.

Exploring a more global reach in 2021, Mariah expanded to The Pyramid du Louvre in Paris, France (also Sackler* funded) with a geolocative installation. Titled “Funded by Loss: Death in Real-Time,” the installation is a large-scale, 3-dimensional number that increases every 7 minutes to represent real-time opioid fatalities.

Each installation explores typography more deeply in the virtual landscape—beginning with flat type and moving into three dimensions. In later experiments, the typography becomes sculptural and reflective of its environment and allows the viewer to walk around it (photos are limited due to the Covid pandemic and travel restrictions).

The project has since expanded into a documentary short film titled “Mariah: Acts of Resistance.” Launching softly in the US and Germany in 2021, the film will premiere in 2022.

Collectively, the work serves to raise awareness for the opioid epidemic and the future implications of our human freedoms in the metaverse, including interpretations of free speech and property rights by asking who owns our virtual space and what can be placed there? Can we raise awareness of these ethical concerns? Can we challenge systems and re-imagine the future by augmenting the space for our own means?

The Mariah app and website use Redaction—a typeface that charts the history and abuses of the US criminal justice system.

*The Sackler Family founded and owned the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma and has faced lawsuits regarding the overprescription of addictive pharmaceutical drugs, including OxyContin.

Creative Director, Tech Activist
Heather Snyder Quinn
Creative Director, Opioid Activist
Adam DelMarcelle
3D Type Designer
Zishou Wang
Web Designer
Valerie Shur
Leslie Ramirez
Les Garcia
Jake Juraka
Designer and App Developer
Flor Salatino