Long ago, internationally infamous inventor Jingles Fakhr sought to make his name known… After a long and toilsome inventing career, creating useless and inoperable oddities, he finally made his breakthrough discovery… the Perpetual Light Machine!
For our project, we sought to make an exhibit whereby users would be drawn down a long and scary dark hallway. At the end, a contraption of some sort would sit idly, willing unsuspecting guests to draw nearer and observe it. Once they did, we behind the scenes would do something to scare them. This was the premise.
Much effort and time was spent on ideation, and there were many ideas that were either dropped entirely or subtly embedded into the final concept. This was tedious, and occupied much of our time. Nevertheless, we persisted, and eventually decided on the loose idea centered around this fictional inventor named “Jingles Fakhr”. The story was that Dr. Jingles was one of the many inventors during the 1800s, who like his contemporaries Edison and Tesla, sought to experiment with electricity and light. Though many of his inventions didn’t work (some of which we would show as exhibition to provide context during the show), his one successful invention was the “Perpetual Light Machine”. The conflict of our story arises when we share that this invention has dubious origins, causing many who view it to feel uneasy, hallucinate, and in some cases, go crazy. It is for these “reasons” that we keep this artefact hidden behind a curtain, and discourage all but the most brave guests to venture in and observe it. After they do, we would go about staging our fright.
We had picked the corner of the IMA floor where the lockers stood as the space where we would stage this experience. To create this stage, we angled the lockers so that they narrowed as you walked towards the end of the hallway. The idea was to place the “Perpetual Light Machine” towards the end of the hallway, such that people would get considerably claustrophobic as they neared it. Once these audience members walk towards it and observe it, we inauspiciously place a costumed mannequin behind them. Once the mannequin is in position, a similarly costumed actor would would jump out at them, causing them to recoil and turn around. At this point, they would suddenly see the mannequin that wasn’t behind them before, and become even more terrified.
This was the plan. The challenge became planning for it. We coordinated with IMA staff to order several key props and settings off of Taobao. These things included curtains to cover the entire stage, a mannequin, a head, and some masks and hoods to costume the mannequin and actor, a head (for the dress form).
Initially, we planned to fabricate some broken electronics to represent the two intial oddities before the final Perpetual Motion Machine. To be honest, I made an automaton that could have turned with Arduino, but never implemented the appropriate circuitry to actually animate it. Nevertheless, this “automaton” was creepy, and clearly dysfuncional, which was the point. In addition, we never really got around to creating a phonograph-like pair of headphones. Consequently, we only had the dysfunctional automaton to show as the pretext to the Perpetual Light Machine.
The Perpetual Light Machine prop was a borrowed student project from Sun Jingyi. It was a 3mm acrylic translucent pyramid, which would glow based on the Arduino-LED setup underneath it.
Setting it up was not to difficult, but we improvised as we went along, making this entire process a little more time consuming. Nevertheless, the end result was rewarding and entirely worth it.