A VR/XR view of a room in a grotto maze. This ended up being my solo show, Mud Room. I also throw around the word Dušičky here, which was a possible name for a larger-scale grotto game.
When the ‘metaverse’ was first proposed, there was an incredible amount of capital poured into it. It was the future, a utopia built on the ruins of a thousand other crumbling utopias. An immaterial, inexhaustible new frontier built to radically maximize individuality and self expression. Through a series of state concessions to corporate pressure, a new form of financialized play replaced work for much of the disenfranchised classes. We filled our days grinding through repetitive tasks and watching advertisements. We decorated increasingly baroque imaginary rooms and crawled bottomless dungeons. At first there were just a few empty rooms left behind by people who had died, but it wasn’t long before the rooms of the dead vastly outnumbered the rooms of the living. After a while the only people who continued using it were mourners. I still visit the rooms of dead relatives and friends in it every day, like listening to an answering machine message over and over. At some point I wished there were also rooms for my grandparents, who never used it, and even my Czech great aunts who lived on a farm in Kurten, Texas (how the hell did they get there?). So I started building rooms for them. There’s more than 400 rooms that I’ve made here now, but I can only visit a few regularly, and some I wish I had never even built, but it’s hard to stop once you start.
These are cenotaphs for my maternal grandmother and her husband Bob. All Souls’ Day is a day to reflect on these lives, even in this empty place.
Mud Room is a site-specific installation that focuses on a single room in in a larger work called Dušičky. Mud Room is a work about family suicide, hidden labor, and ideas about a dichotomy of play and work.
Dušičky (Little Souls) is the Czech name for the November 2nd observance of All Souls’ Day.
Dušičky is a larger-scale project that presents a multiplayer space made of many rooms built from family tree data. It focuses on a branch of my family who were Czech emigres to Texas, their cultural identity and assimilation.
Grotto is a web application built to handle data for both projects. It creates a web page for each room and tracks the movement of items and characters between those rooms. There are text-only, graphical, and webXR views of rooms that allow for different UI schemas and interactions. The maze has a history and layers, it’s not a pure conceptual space that comes from a single authorial voice. To a player carrying out acts in rooms that represent their own family it may feel like a “real” place, backed by data. To a player without this context, exploring rooms as an assumed “character”, it may feel like a superficial game-space filled with videogame tropes and autogenerated content.
A first person VR view of a room in the larger maze where rituals of care can be carried out for the cenotaphs of the dead, and mementos in the form of text and multimedia can be viewed. We are free to look around and manipulate items but there is no player traversal around the room, all objects of interest should be within reach. Moving from room to room (if enabled) is done by targeting a door and activating it. Alternately, fixed cameras in a unity project provide security-camera style views into the room to be used for projections.
I’ve had two 3d modeling/animation classes in the last year with a fun, super knowledgable professor, and could have made anything for my final projects and both classes I have chosen to make dour mausoleums, literally. Funerary spaces. What the fuck is wrong with me and will I get better again?More ➜
For some reason I had a difficult time thinking of a piece of art to refer to for this exercise, so I picked the last film I watched for research purposes. The film is Jiří Trnka’s stop motion film Staré pověsti české loutkový [Old Czech Legends]. This might be an interesting selection because the film doesn’t have subtitles available and I watched it without knowing Czech. I did have some access to what what happening in the film because I have an English translation of Alois Jirásek’s Ancient Bohemian Legends, the book that serves as its primary source (which Trnka also illustrated).More ➜