Commisioned by Ballroom Marfa, Curated by Laura Copelin
The Institute for New Feeling is using the new HTC Vive Virtual Reality system to imagine a very near future of online shopping. As participants wander through an infinite wholesale warehouse, they encounter real products that can be purchased through the interface using an e-store “add to cart” function. When they pick up a product with their hands, the shelving and aisles around them are suddenly transformed into a collage of elements from the product’s history (details like: animal/plant ingredients in the product, its manufacturing or labor history, celebrity endorsements, strange trivia, controversy, etc.) This style of teleportation plays on the concept--common to shampoo or perfume advertising--in which purchasing a product immediately “transports” the consumer to its place of origin. But here, the origin myth of Herbal Essences, for example, would reflect not only the pristine rainforest, but also perhaps the realities of plastics manufacturing, the aesthetics of industrial bottling, or an anecdote about this shampoo’s most obscure ingredient... Our intention here is not to stitch a comprehensive history for each product, but instead to replicate the web of associations that emerges when researching a product online. Following an intuitive, undisciplined logic, these narratives are allowed to spin out of control, leading the consumer as far from the original product as possible--similar to the familiar experience of falling down a Wikipedia “rabbit hole.”
DITHERER WALK THROUGH VIDEO
Participants wander through an endless warehouse store where a series of products are on display. Below is a demo video that shows an early screen capture of our first scene, with instructions of how to use the interface.
1. Avocados, Fresh, Large, Good Taste (6 Avocados)
2. Fuchutech 7inch Car Visor Video Screen
3. SinfulShine Nailpolish, “On Fyre” from the King Kylie Collection
4. The Universe: The Mega Collection Blu Ray Disc
5. Jet Lag Rapid-Reset Pills
6. Balance Bar Gold, S’Mores flavor, 6 ct
7. Simpatico Hobnail Candle, Ambergris
7 Products will be displayed for sale in the warehouse store
When the participant picks up a product, the space around them instantly transforms to display the alternate reality of this product. Among the warehouse shelves, the participant is suddenly confronted with the Aztec Pyramid of the Sun, a translucent Indian castle made of shellac, a humpback whale, a wildfire, George W. Bush’s living room, a 360-member Mormon choir or a Syrian drone strike… Each of these environments (still in development) mashes together hyper-realistic 3D models to create a surreal, contradictory “world” for its product. In this way, a myth of the “source” or “history” of a product is generated by weaving together all of the tangential, scandalous or trivial bits of information that spiral off a product through online research.
Pick up an avocado to enter its product environment
Each fantasy world opens up a web of associations, which are whispered as a text script into the participant’s ear, almost as if they were muttering this information to themselves. Recalling the language of a hyperlinked wikipedia rabbit hole, the infamous “six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” or conspiracy theory rants, this text is also visible as a fine print Product Description, just as you might find accompanying products online.
click here to listen to the avocado narrative
Alternate reality: Tom Selleck’s avocado orchard in Northern California, with an Aztec pyramid in the distance. Protest signs amongst the trees show evidence of the current drought in the foreground, while tv monitors display the strange history of avocado marketing in America.
Once the participant is holding a product they are given a choice to either ADD TO CART (button) or drop/throw the product to the ground. As soon as they are no longer touching the product, its fantasy world will disappear, leaving them standing where they were when they picked it up. At this point, the participant can continue shopping or CHECK OUT (button) to purchase what is in their cart and/or exit the experience.
Add to Cart button inside the Avocado environment
Below is a sample script that details the purchasing of one product from start to finish. You can also view each of the individual voice over product descriptions and scene descriptions on this google doc.
- You enter the warehouse store
- You discover a display of SinfulColors King Kylie Collection Nail Polish.
- You pick up a red bottle with your hands, and the shelves around you disintegrate, leaving you in the middle of a luxury swimming pool. It’s nighttime; You are floating on a pool toy shaped like a Swan, circling an enormous red tree in the center of the pool. Everything is illuminated by architectural up-lighting. A slow, thick stream of red nail polish drips from a hole in the trunk of the tree and stains the pool water below it. As you slowly circumnavigate the tree, you pass a row of women tanning in the moonlight, their feet just pedicured, nails drying under UV lamps. A lac bug buzzes by close to your face. You see the Kardashian mansion off in the distance as well as a glowing Indian palace made entirely of shellac.
- As you move through the product’s fantasy world you hear the following voice in your head, intimate and quiet, as if you were muttering to yourself: SinfulColors King Kylie Collection: SinfulShine, On Fyre. This product comes from the exclusive nailpolish line of Kylie Jenner, socialite daughter of Caitlyn Jenner, and television personality from 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians', as well as guest star on 'Kourtney and Kim Take Miami', 'Khloé & Lamar', 'Kourtney and Kim Take New York', and 'Kourtney and Khloé Take The Hamptons.' ' This polish is a new endorsement for Jenner, following her OPI brands, Wear Something Spar-kylie and Rainbow in the S-kylie. On Fyre is a non-vegan shellac nail polish, cured with UV light, and produced from the resin created by female lac bugs. Female lac bugs excrete their resin onto the tropical Butea Monosperma trees in India. These trees produce red fruit pods, giving them the nickname, 'the-flame-of-the-forest', because they appear to be on fire. The-flame-of-the-forest is home to the Gray Langur Monkey. Primates have fingernails that distinguish them from other mammals, like tigers, who have claws to help with daily tasks. Both the tiger’s claw and the Butea Monosperma tree are important subjects in the writing of nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, an influential Indian composer from the late 19th Century. He wrote over 2000 songs that were 'pressed in wax', a term referring to 78 RPM records, which are actually made of shellac. According to the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, there was once an entire palace built out of dried shellac.
- You select “add to cart,” or drop the nail polish on the floor; instantly you are brought back to the warehouse to continue shopping
- You select “check out” to exit the experience & purchase the items in your cart
- 3-5 days later, the purchased items arrive at your home in Amazon packaging
SinfulColors King Kylie Collection nail polish display in the warehouse store
Presenting at once a commercial trap and an escapist fantasy, the selected products attempt to sell themselves using a garbled language of associations. Our interest with this project is to dramatize the moment of hitting the button--of deciding whether or not to buy something online. Around each product, we’ve developed a complex schema of ethical, financial, ecological--and entirely tangential--considerations, which reads as a kind of contemporary conspiracy theory.
This not a game, your decisions in virtual space have real consequences. If you purchase an item, the money you’re spending is real; the item will arrive at your home in 3-5 days (in Amazon packaging). In the contemporary service economy, bustling with app development, we can imagine this interface expanded to include thousands of online products: providing a service for consumers to enhance and gamify the everyday experience of shopping online. Whether you view this project as parasitic or promotional to the Amazon marketplace, we are interested in directly linking the participant’s interactions back to the boring physical world. In observing the gamification of everyday life, as well as the rising financial stakes in game-space, it might be better to ask: in the future, will any game be “just a game”?
Avocado environment ends by entering a tv monitor that contains the living room of the Bush’s texas ranch house.
Laura Bush can be heard talking about the house, as you drift over to the couch with GW's famous guacamole on the coffee table in front of you. The football game on the TV is the one he was watching when he made national headlines by choking on a pretzel.
This is our second collaboration with 3D graphics artist Gary Tyler who lives in Portland, OR. Our first collaboration with Gary was a video advertisement for our product Furthering Cream, for which he created the 3D animation. For another example of Gary’s 3D work, see Moving Tips, a video he created for our online publication called the Felt Book. For DITHERER, Gary has also acted as lead programmer, with additional programming from Ethan Jerrett & Simon Pinkas, and additional 3D modeling by David Chuan Gao & Miles Peyton. We are currently looking for 3D animators to join Gary in designing and rendering the remaining product environments. We’ve interviewed a number of people and are continuing to do so, in order to have a team assembled as soon as we secure the funding required. Any help finding appropriate collaborators would be greatly appreciated.
This is Presence is made possible by the generous support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston; City of Marfa; National Endowment for the Arts; Pace Art + Technology; Texas Commission on the Arts; Ballroom Marfa Board of Trustees and Ballroom Marfa Members.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
The Institute for New Feeling is a 3-person art collective based in Los Angeles. We are committed to the development of new ways of feeling and ways of feeling new. A full list of projects is available at newfeeling.institute
UPCOMING & CURRENT SHOWS
Sept 13 - Oct 15 In Real Life: Film & Video, Screenings, AFI at Hammer Museum, LA
Oct 11 - Oct 15 Staying Present presented by AQNB at 3hd Festival, Berlin
Oct 22 - Nov 20 Are We Human? at 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial, Turkey
Nov 3 - Nov 4 Institute for New Feeling, Visiting Artists at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, Denver
Nov 18 - Nov 20 Femmebit 2016 video screening at Human Resources, LA
July 2 - Oct 6 Video Exhibition at Istanbul Modern, Turkey
June 30 - Oct 16 Video Exhibition at MAAT, Lisbon
Aug 9 - Oct 2 Video Exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, London
Sept 23 - Feb 5 Solo Exhibition at Ballroom Marfa, Texas
Artists' Film International Exhibition at Foundation PROA, Buenos Aires
Printed Matter's NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1
KevinSpace, Dinner with Kevin, Vienna
PopRally Presents: TEN @ MoMA
CONGLOMERATE.tv screening of BLOCK TWO @ Kino Moviemento, Berlin and online
A Mystical Staircase @ 63rd-77th Steps(presented at Villa Croce Contemporary Art Museum in Genova and online)
Weird Reality: Head Mounted Art&&Code at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
Parckdesign 2016 Bruxelles
Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart
Southern Exposure, San Francisco