Behind The Astor Place “Man In A Cube” Stunt That’s Promoting … Meditation

Lululemon’s Chip and Shannon Wilson launch an unusual project with a hoax video about a man living inside a piece of art.

We’ve recently seen several photographic exposés on the positively miniscule places people call home. But this week, people were surprised to learn that a wayward artist has been calling the 8-foot by 8-foot, spinning cube art sculpture in New York’s Astor Place his home. Complete with cooking facilities, a pedal-powered generator, retractable furniture, foam soundproofing, and a hidden chemical toilet, the steel cube has been home to Dave, a writer who fell on hard times and transformed the art piece into a rent-free abode, for the last couple of years.


Or so this video that appeared on YouTube would have you believe. As Dave outlines the practical matters of living in a piece of steel art–such as enduring the constant spinning of the structure, and sneaking in and out at strange hours to avoid detection–he confesses that his wifi-, phone-, text-, and social media-free life was a necessary measure to overcome feelings of being burnt out. Only now, he’s moving out. Having found the support of meditation community Whil, Dave is ready to join the connected, fast-paced world once again. Presumably he also found a lot of focused time in his tilted block to get some writing done and make some money to afford rent.

In fact, Man in a Cube, the video of Dave’s compact and spartan life, was actually the work of New York agency Thinkmodo (the same agency responsible for “Bubba’s Hover,” “The Popinator” and many other real-world-based viral stunts). While the living in a cube part of the video was a bit of fiction, the existence of Whil and it’s meditation program is not. The new type of 60-second meditation created by Chip and Shannon Wilson, founders of Lululemon, was the reason behind the video.

Thinkmodo co-founder Michael Krivicka says that when approached to help build awareness for Whil, the brief was interesting, in that there was none. “The unusual challenge here was the fact that there is no product here. Chip and Shannon are launching a meditation brand that doesn’t sell anything. How do you promote something like that? The good thing about it was they were open to anything and they wanted something very unique that they could own as an idea. Our idea was to create a story around an individual who went to extremes to ‘unplug’ from his distracting life style.”

In creating this story arc, the agency ably envisioned a self-contained home in an asymmetrical hunk of metal. Thinkmodo created a perfect replica of the Astor Place cube at an artist’s studio in Brooklyn, and designed the interior as a livable apartment. They also recreated one of the cube’s panels and placed it on a truck, positioned right next to the cube. It served as Dave’s “entrance” point and allowed them to shoot Dave going in and out of the fake panel. They then intercut between scenes of the inside of the replica and the outside of the real cube in post-production to create the illusion that the cube could, in fact, be entered.

“The result is a very realistic looking, documentary like video that is getting a lot of people talking,” says Krivicka. Since the video was released on Monday it’s racked up over 100,000 views and has already hit the morning talk show circuit. “The video is doing what it’s designed to do: get people talking about Whil.”

The Whil site introduces visitors to Chip and Shannon Wilson and a 60-second meditation technique consisting of three steps–“power down, power up and and power forward.” The site includes how-tos and interviews with creative types and is focused on unplugging rather than commerce (see what happens when you click “Shop”). It also introduces Wilson’s e-book project, 40,000 Days And Then You’re Dead. “Meditation–specifically the 60-second meditation we prescribe with Whil–is about avoiding technological burnout by “getting present,” being mindful and living in the moment,” Wilson says in the introduction to the book on the site.

About the author

Rae Ann Fera is a writer with Co.Create whose specialty is covering the media, marketing, creative advertising, digital technology and design fields. She was formerly the editor of ad industry publication Boards and has written for Huffington Post and Marketing Magazine.