Subjective Reality Prison : a 3D Design project

Today I’m writing about an assignment for a different class – 3D design, specifically. I know this blog was intended for my digital design class, but I’ve gotten used to writing out my processes here, so I figured this was a good place to get my brain working since I have to write a proposal for the piece. It’s a little backwards -we weren’t required to write the proposals first and have them reviewed for approval, but the proposal is due today – before the work. I’ve completed the work, so I have a little bit of an advantage – since it’s an installation piece, I can stick it in the installed places and see if it looks the way it’s supposed to.

The assignment was to take balsa wood and paper and design a site-specific installation piece. The piece was required to have repeating modules.

I looked around the art building – the place where we are required to install the piece – and was immediately attracted to two places. One for deeply personal reasons, and one for more aesthetic reasons.

The first location I thought of was where I had my first real, awful panic attack on campus. I didn’t know what I wanted to put there – I had conflicting ideas between something that would elicit feelings similar to the panic attack – restriction, a need to escape, pain, fear, etc., and comfort – the thing I sought by hiding there. I was walking around with a classmate scouting for locations, hoping the locations would lend to the design, and we were talking about how neither of us really had any idea what we were doing. I told her about this location and its significance and she asked me to show it to her. She told me “I could see a tiny prison going here.”

The idea hit me like a freight train. That was what I wanted to make. But did I want to put it here, or somewhere else?

Honestly, I wasn’t happy with this project. I love the installations that go up throughout the art building – it’s what makes this building one of the most special places on campus. There’s always some new treasure to discover. But I have issues about my art being good enough to be one of those treasures. I hated the idea of working with balsa wood and I didn’t think I could come up with anything good.

(Those of you who are on this campus, check out the upstairs art lounge by the blue chairs – there’s an awesome example of what a previous student doing this same project created that’s really lovely – repeating blue chairs representing the chairs in the room. It’s actually the perfect example of this assignment – site specific, repeating module, using paper, balsa wood and a strong color focal point. It’s simple, to the point, aesthetically beautiful and really clever and lovely to look at.)

So I thought about making it a sort of hidden treasure, so to speak – installing my tiny prison inside one of the unused lockers designated for handicapped people. They’re smaller, more restrictive, and it could make a statement about the limitations and trapped feeling that disability represents. With that idea in mind, I kept my prison tiny. If I install it, completed, in the original location, it is dwarfed. This also could make a statement – its size in the overwhelming largeness of the world, how small I wanted to make myself at the time – to disappear, to escape, to hide.

But as I was walking around, another location struck me. I’ve always wanted to see something installed on the large window ledge of the stairs by the entrance closest to the Tivoli. It’s a large window ledge that seems like a place I’d like to curl up and take a nap. It seems like something should be there – a sculpture, maybe, or pillows. It could be transformed into wonderful couch seating, which is what I would do with it if it were in my home. So I was inspired to think about installing there, too. And aesthetically, the tiny prison looks interesting there.

It’s a contrast – the feeling of being trapped against the open view of the sky beyond the window. Also, if its installed there, people going up the stairs might see the hidden image on the top panel of the prison of a winged humanoid flying overhead. The repeating module of the cage bars goes well with the repeated module of the stair railing. It’s a tiny thing in an open space, which keeps that idea of being overwhelemd and feeling trapped and scared and overwhelmed by the world, but also opens up a new idea that I’ve talked about with people who suffer – in some ways, as terrifying as it is to suffer, it’s safe in that cage – there is the safety of familiarity. Healing is hard and frightening and new and different and sometimes something that those of us who suffer from things like depression, anxiety, panic disorder and other limiting and debilitating disabilities have never known. We don’t know what “healed” looks like. We don’t know what getting better feels like. We don’t know what possibilites and terrors the world holds if we conquer these things that we fight every day and that’s really very scary.

The piece is called “Subjective Reality Prison,” and deals with the prison of reality perception that we are all caught in. The casing, or prison, is constructed out of balsa wood, while the panels are created with card stock and magazine cut images.

The main, prominent panel is of a girl tied up and hidden in the woods. I found the piece in a magazine a long time ago and wanted to use it in some work of my own. I wrote the name of the piece and the artist down but I left it at home. This image was not large enough to cover the back of the cage, so I supplemented it with additional work by the same artist that I had saved – another piece name that I’ll fill in here, later. The red of the girl’s kimono was a strong focal point in the original piece, and continues to be one in my piece. It draws the viewer in, trapping them within the cage, confining them in a way that might not be completely comfortable. This encourages thought and exploration of the emotions experienced upon viewing the piece. —- The back panel is by Mike Sutfin and is comprised of two pieces: Vampire – Metamorphosis (2007) and Servant of the Moon (2004)
The bottom is made of binary code – 1s and 0s, representing digital or constructed reality, a place where many of us escape, whether it be through video games, movies, tv shows, the internet.

The top of the cage is, at first, a solid black image. At closer glance, there is a face of a woman hidden within a surface that looks like leather. Things are not always what they seem at first, look harder. Take hard reality and shape into the reality you wish to see, but be careful to remember that we all experience the world around us – reality – differently. What you see – a woman’s face – may not be what someone else sees – a piece of leather. A reminder to be creative and look for creative solutions to problems. A reminder to communicate the reality we see with others so that they might better be able to understand the world the way we process it individually. A reminder to share the beauty we see with others so that they might also be inspired to find beauty and creative inspiration in the world around them as well. A reminder to stretch the boundaries of reality and share this experience with others.

Underneath the top, seemingly trapped inside the cage, is a winged humanoid flying over a vast landscape. We see it from above, the way we would if we were looking down on him. This is reality subverted, as if we looked up we should see its underside. This is reality subverted – it is free and flying over this vast landscape, while trapped and confined within this prison. It is armed, ready to fight, but what is it fighting? Reality, confinement, containment, restrictive thinking, restrictive environments, closed-minded perception, panic, pain, suffering, whoever trapped the girl, the digital or constructed reality, the line between constructed reality and perceived or natural reality, any number of things.

The back, which isn’t intended to be seen, but could be, as well as the bottom, are covered in silver tissue paper. On the bottom it strives to be smooth, like a solid piece of metal. It curves up over the bottom, bleeding into the front of the piece, making the bottom seem stronger and more like metal than the wood bars of the cage. The back has a metal feeling too, although it is sheets of metal laid down and then warped to fit between the bars in a purposefully haphazard manner.

The piece is simple but complex.

I’ll work on the proposal more in the coming hours – I have a class now. I may have images later. I just needed to get this down.


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