The "metramorphosis" installation pulls the film's visual metaphors and conceptual themes off the screen, creating an embodied space for reflection that both expands and effaces the boundaries of the continuously unfolding self.
The installation is composed of two main physical components: the "Body Pod" and the "Head Pod." The Body Pod is a large-scale sculpture built from overlapping acetate planes arranged in 3-dimensional composition, which encircles the viewing area of a film projection screen. Opposite this screen, on the other side of the Body Pod, a polygonal structure housing an interactive touchscreen and four one-way mirror panels forms the "Head Pod."
An overhead schematic of the intended spatial layout can be seen here:
THE BODY POD
The Body Pod extends toward, and gently swaddles, the viewing area of the linear "metramorphosis" film, which plays on loop. It is formed from overlapping planes, laser cut from sheets of acetate, of multiplying bodies and unfolding limbs. The outward surfaces of these layered figures – those facing both the entrance and the Head Pod – are surface treated and embellished with line-drawn anatomical details. The inward surfaces – those facing the film screen and its viewing audience – are mirrored. When viewers stand within the Body Pod's inner viewing area, these mirrored surfaces catch glimpses of their own fragmentary reflections and mix them with the ever-changing reflection of the animated screen.
The figural arrangement captures a paradoxical body that is both frozen and in motion, at once reflected and obscured. While the precise materials and surface treatments for the planar elements are still being experimented with, a number of characteristics make acetate particularly promising: its translucency, its ability to take several mediums, its availability in various colors (including mirror), and its relative strength and lightness.
The video below is meant as a visual reference for how such layers might appear in dimensional space, although the precise composition and arrangement of these elements is still in development:
THE HEAD POD
The Head Pod houses the interactive "metramorphosis" game. It sits in front of – and in conversation with – the Body Pod, and as the entrance to the space, it serves as the first invitation into the installation experience.
The Head Pod's main element is a suspended hexagonal structure, which the viewer is invited to enter through its open back wall. The facing inner wall holds a touch screen display, which runs the "metramorphosis" game from a computer hidden in the seat below (moveable/configurable to accommodate users of different sizes and abilities). On each side of the screen are two additional panels of one-way mirrored acetate, with their reflective surfaces facing inward to multiply both the user and the screen in a nearly 360 degree circle. The user is thus enclosed in an open, yet intimate, chamber of reflections.
The outer surface of the Head Pod is fixed with flat acetate planes in the shape of heads and profiled faces, matching in style and material to the Body Pod. Gaps between these planes allow viewers outside the pod to catch glimpses of the user and the screen (as well as their reflections) within. At once private yet porous, the Head Pod invites the viewer into an experience of the maternal body as a site of both personal transformation and public illusion.
The Body Pod will include a set of headphones to isolate the sound design of the interactive experience from the looping linear film. The current interactive prototype is built for touch-based input, however alternative schemes – which could include physical/sculptural control inputs – are still being explored.
There are a number of open questions at this early stage of the spatial design. I am continuing to explore technical details about the scale of the sculptural elements, surface treatment style and mediums, additional design elements to activate the surrounding walls of the room, and user input schemes for the interactive game (whether traditionally touch-based, using alternative physical inputs, or even incorporating the viewer's own phone or personal devices).
I am also continually mulling over possibilities to create a more interactive relationship between the screens of the Head Pod and the Body Pod – whether, for instance, the two might have some interplay of progression. That said, accessibility and the flexibility to accommodate several modes of engagement are key priorities for the experience, and this (at least currently) drives my impulse to maintain a fully linear presentation, separate and alongside its interactive counterpart.
Further user testing of the interactive experience will continue to shape my thinking around the installation's final format.