Hypercinema Final Project Proposal

For this project I wanted to create a speculative artifact from the future. Inspired by Joseph Cornell's animal boxes, and the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, I want my Cornell Box to be a futuristic reflection of the past. With this in mind, I have two ideas that I'm currently floating around with, but I'm not entirely sure what I'll have the ability to do in Unity - so I want to keep my options open.

1. Anthropological Artifact

My first idea is to create a collage of old electronic equipment (tvs, drones, vr headsets, gaming consoles, cell phones, etc...) that have video projected on the screens inside the collage. I want it to look like a slab that was dug out of the ground with all of the history our electronics have amassed over the last 100 years - kind of like the different layers of earth. The idea is that in the future these relics, when found and put on display will still have working media inside of their hard drives that will play through their screens.

These screens will allow us to experience a glimpse of a simulated natural world. A world that once was teeming with life, dictated by its own laws. A snapshot of a world seemingly untouched by human hands, or entirely fabricated by them.

I was inspired by my research into the Anthropocene Epoch, which is an unofficial unit of geologic time, used to describe the most recent period in Earth’s history when human activity started to have a significant and permanent impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.

Now that we’re at the point of human history where we’ve caused permanent ecological change, what do we leave behind in our wake? what will future generations find? What will the state of the earth be when we as a species are no longer a part of it?

Ideally this would be a physical sculpture with the video projected on it. I created a prototype for another class last semester but was unable to finish the project and I thought this final project might be a good opportunity revisit and finish it. I originally envisioned building a lot of them with various devices and video content that you could walk around and interact with in a gallery setting.

A screen shot from the collage painted in bright pastels using Maya and ZBrush

projection-mapping test with the video projected on a 1/6 scale white 3D-printed sculpture, the machines are made to look like stone

I didn't have the knowledge or skillset at the time to make this piece interactive. I originally wanted to have the projected animations triggered using motion or have a separate controller where one could "change the channels" so to speak on the screens - or trigger various animations projected on the sculpture.

The idea for this project would be to finished what I started by created a new sculpture in Unity using pre-made assets I've collected and then transfer the animations to Mad Mapper to add interactivity using a gaming controller and their cue system.

2. Mechanical Animal Market

My other idea is to create a small, defunct animal market in the middle of nowhere that you can step inside of in Unity and walk around. I'm envisioning a space where you can walk up to a glass display, press a button and a semi-functioning mechanical animal will come to life inside a faux environment. Similar to the exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, but obviously those ones don't move.

A display case with stuffed lions at the American Museum of Natural History

In the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, most real animals have been wiped out due to environmental pollution and human conflict. While some still exist, this last remaining connection to a dying vision of the natural/primal world is reserved for those with immense wealth and privilege. For those who can't afford a real animal, you can purchase electric animals. I want to recreate what these animal markets might have looked like in Unity. The electric animals in the novel are supposed to be impossible to distinguish (same with the androids). Mine however, will not be functioning properly as they did not withstand the passage of time.

I'd like the environment to feel abandoned with the ability to pick up discarded random objects which fill in some of the history of the world, and press buttons to the various animal displays/cages to make them move. Again, I don't know how possible it is to do that in Unity with the skills that we'll be learning but I can always pair it down if it's not possible within the time frame.

A roadside gas station as depicted in the movie, The Hills Have Eyes - a similar aesthetic that I'm looking to achieve

In the novel, an owl is significant and sought after object of desire for several characters, and it was Joseph Cornell's bird boxes that sparked the original idea, so I think I would like to create to pay homage and create one featuring an owl.

An example of some of Joseph Cornell's bird collages

An example of wiring that could be added to the box to signify that the animal is mechanical, but also adds interest to the design (image credit)

I haven't landed on which project idea I'm going to move forward with and am genuinely torn, but I hope the next day or so with Unity will help guide my direction a bit more.