Meet the Activists

Benjamin Von Wong never considered himself an environmentalist growing up. He wasn’t even a fan of being outdoors, and forget about camping or hiking. But that changed in 2016 when he found himself craving more meaning. “I wanted my work to do more than generate likes,” says Benjamin, who was working as a photographer at the time. After watching several documentaries to learn about issues that he could support professionally, he emerged with a new mission.

“As I learned more about the environmental issue — particularly the problems of overconsumption, infinite growth, and capitalism — it became obvious that this is something we need to speak up about. The environment can’t speak up for itself, and frontline communities tend to not be well resourced enough to be seen and heard,” Benjamin says.

So he makes enough noise for us all.

From The Parting of the Plastic Sea — a Guinness World Record–winning installation made of 168,037 used plastic straws to encourage viewers to skip single-use plastic waste and protect our oceans — to his latest project Right to Repair, which explores electronic waste and why it floods landfills around the world, protecting the environment sits at the center of Benjamin’s massive, Instagram-ready art installations.



“Change the world” is the unofficial mantra of Benjamin and the other Activists on the 2023 XLIST. But what sets them apart from the other featured experience makers is that they identify their desired impact before they start a project, they amplify causes they personally hold dear, and they know tapping into emotions is crucial to influencing change. Benjamin is in great company, including Amir Nizar Zuabi (playwright), Kerem Ozguz and Tony Ng (Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp), Lauren Sullivan (who greens concert venues), Nancy Baker Cahill (who creates augmented reality installations), Samantha Marie Johnson (NYC Pride), and Julien Christian Lutz, professionally known as Director X. Collectively, their work is grounded in a desire to create experiences that inspire action.

Take Right to Repair, launched in Toronto in November 2023 ahead of the biggest shopping week of the year (hello, Black Friday and Cyber Monday). It features a throne atop an electronic waste graveyard made of 5,000 pounds of plastic and metal, a disembodied voice prodding viewers to buy more so they will be good enough, and an augmented reality component on the importance of fixing things rather than tossing them. Benjamin hopes visitors are inspired to support their local Right to Repair legislation. “We can’t truly control the impact of everything that we do, but we can try our best to design a project with benefits in mind,” he says.

XLIST 2023: The Activists

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For the Activists, that impact typically has personal implications — and personal motivations.

“It’s just my path in life,” says Director X, who has directed dozens of iconic music videos and even has a new, community-minded tv show for the young set (Robyn Hood). But he told The Guardian that his experiential work is “much more representative of the artist I am.”

His latest work, Operation Prefrontal Cortex (OPC), was born after he was shot at a New Year’s party (a bullet went through two people on the dance floor and lodged in his back). He gave a poignant talk about his experience in 2016 and later co-founded OPC to tackle youth gun violence in Toronto. The org uses meditation-centered experiences to rewire the brains of young people so they are better at decision making and regulating their emotions, in the hope of preventing future violence. “We need to give people something they can use practically. Representation matters. Seeing someone who looks like you, someone you look up to, someone from your community meditating — that opens up the conversation,” Director X says.

That’s something XLIST Activists do exceptionally well: tap into our emotions, which have the power to move us even more than intellectual arguments. Samantha Marie Johnson, Associate Director of Events and Entertainment for NYC Pride told GO she appreciates that experiential work gives her “a platform that gives our community the opportunity to tell our stories through lived experiences, highlight our untold history, and take a stance on how we move toward a more inclusive and equitable future.” And when you connect people with similar stories and similar missions, you get amplified impact at scale. “I am proud to have a seat at a table that provides so much joy and a feeling of what liberation could look like,” Samantha Marie continued.

That co-creation—that connection—is the driving force of experiential. As Director X puts it: “Community gets you through.

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Experiential Is Everything

XP Land is for experiential creatives and experience-makers, brand leaders, and IP-owners, space stewards and venue visionaries — all those in the business of epic gatherings and live, immersive storytelling.