The Toliet Retrospective

From Andy Fedak
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Overview

The ____________ Toilet Retrospective, is a site specific virtual installation of the male and female bathrooms curated from those found in the _____________.   These bathrooms will be meticulously scanned, reconstructed inside the computer, and rendered in virtual reality, all within walking distance from their original location.  At these same sites of virtual construction, real plexiglass and particle boards will be matched to the exact dimensions of the virtual bathrooms - in essence - “reality hinges” between virtual reality and reality itself.

Installation from the outside of the VR headset.

       

Installation from the inside of the VR headset.

Two viewers will then be asked to experience these virtual installations (via a head mounted display such as the HTC Vive), where they can walk inside (one from the male side, the other from the female) and explore at will - eventually being able to connect with a shared “dual-toilet”.  

Split POV view of the installation, bottom-right is outside, upper-left is inside.

All the while this will be witnessed by those in the “viewing gallery”, with lush sonic tones, sound effects, and music drawing the viewers deeper into the work.

The “viewing gallery” looks on.

The goal of this project is threefold:

First, to revisit our relationship to the toilet.  For most it is a space overlooked.  We use it a few times a day, never thinking of the special privileges we attribute to it.  For some this space is one of imagination, a time when the mind is confined, yet free, away from the constant technological bombardment we deal with everyday.  For others it is a space of horror, where the contradictions of the body and society come to a tipping point, and this place of supposed safety becomes one of fear.

Second, to explore the visceral palette of the site specific virtual installation, where site and non-site collide in a hybrid space spanning both reality and virtual reality.   Site Specific Art has historically been seen as art placed on, into, or from, a site, which then creates the specificity of the site as art.  First the work, then the space, then the two together, permanently bound in both reality and consciousness.   Examples of artists working in this form are myriad, from Robert Smithson to Gordon Matta-Clark.

"Gordon Matta-Clark, “Conical Intersect” "Robert Smithson, “Spiral Jetty”

I would like to explore site before it has been touched by the artist.  To extract its essence and reconfigure it in the virtual world, exploring it out of its original time/space.  The site is unharmed, where once the viewer has experienced this virtual reproduction, they can examine the real, and experience it as if the artist has never touched it.   The space, then art, then the two separate, only the viewer’s consciousness has changed, binding them within their mind.

Space acquisition through photogrammetry.         Space reconfigured and blended within the gallery.

Third, to examine the social dynamics around virtual reality by creating plexiglass volumes where the viewer of the virtual installation is directly exposed to an audience queuing up to experience the same thing (on the other side of the plexiglass). The outermost crust of the piece, which uses the viewer of the inner work as the performer of the outer: pointing towards a possible future where what we see and touch might not be what “is”.  

“A single space of touch”, viewers will be guided to this point via sound, light, and animation.

Construction Details

The creation of the site specific aspects of the piece will be different for each location it is installed in, but will always have these 5 elements:  a “dual toilet” matching the combined male/female bathroom, a viewing area for watching of the performative part of the work, plexiglass and plywood walls matching the geometry of the virtual part of the space (plexiglass for the side utilized by the viewing gallery).  And finally, paths leading to the male and female bathrooms (these can be digital if the bathrooms are far away - like the ones in North Carolina’s governor’s office).

Example installation layout (reality).

The installation itself is very malleable, and can be scaled depending on the size of space and funding.  In this example the walls are thick and mounted from the ground, in other versions, they could be much thinner and hanging from the ceiling - allowing for a much lighter (and cheaper) type of wood and plexiglass.  The install itself can also scale to a single toilet stall, rather than the entire bathroom, which in turn would dramatically effect time/cost.

Technologically, for most installs I would provide the computer, head mounted displays (HTC vive), and sound equipment.

Timeline

Depending on scale, from production “go” to show opening, the creative process can run from about 2 months to roughly 4 months.  This can be compressed in half if needed for a particular show or festival, if agreed upon by the artist before hand (after seeing images of the site).  Since each installation is unique and “site specific”, the choice of bathroom and gallery needs to be determined as soon as possible, as production can begin only when these choices are made.

Digitization - 1 day

The acquisition of the space via photography.  This can be done by the artist or someone on site with specific guidance of what and how to shoot the spaces.  Both the location of the installation and the gallery it will be placed in would need to be “scanned”.  Generally this can be free or very low budget rental of the proper camera type (basic DSLR).  

Reconstruction / Shading (high-end) - 1 to 2 months depending on scale

The creation of the space inside the computer and rendered at a photorealistic level.   This document is an example of this type of output.  It creates the high end mark which the optimized version will shoot for, and also utilize in its own creation.  Additionally, these elements can be used for different aspects of the production of the exhibition, such as advertising, prints, posters, and social media.

Reproduction / Optimization for VR - 1 to 2 months depending on scale

The creation of the VR optimized part of the piece, which will allow viewers to walk around inside the space.  

Construction of reality “hinges” (can be done offsite) - 1 week

Once the virtual space is created, hyper detailed plans can be printed to allow construction to begin.  Plywood and plexiglass slabs, with the proper anchors are used.  Simple explanatory language is printed on each piece to distinguish where it fits into its virtual counterpart.  

Installation and VR and Reality alignment - 2/3 days

The placement of the virtual and real elements into the space, and testing to make sure a proper “match” is happening between these two realities.