This semester I'm taking a class called the Art of Dying, in which we study the art of dying artists. It sounds depressing, but it's truly humbling and fascinating. For the midterm, we had to pick an artist and do research and a project on them. My project was on Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a minimalist installation artist who was active from the late 80s to the mid 90s. As a gay man living during the AIDS crisis, a lot of his work was influenced by love and loss, especially his work from 1991, when his long time boyfriend Ross Laycock died.

My original midterm project was created with paper and glue, but when I came to this hackathon, I had the idea of creating a virtual gallery for his work. Initially I'd envisioned an art gallery with pictures of his work that could be walked through, simply a virtual reflection of the paper-and-glue project, but then it dawned on me that an installation artist should have proper interactive 3D installations, as he had in real life, and so A Public of One was born.

What it does

Currently, the only thing it does is allow the user to walk through and observe the two pieces of artwork I've installed. However, in the future, I envision a more interactive environment using Gonzalez-Torres' iconic candy piles, paper stacks, and beaded curtains. Users will be able to click on the candy and the paper, and a piece of the work will disappear accordingly with every click. Users will also be able to walk through the beaded curtains and watch them ripple in the user's wake.

How I built it

I modeled the gallery, billboard, and candy pile in Unity, and the moving curtains in Maya. In the future, I will model the paper stacks in Unity and the beaded curtains in Maya, as well as adding animations.

Challenges I ran into

The main challenge for me was that I have never used either of these programs before. But I had an idea and wanted to run with it, so my Game Dev major friend gave me some advice in terms of what programs to use, and to YouTube I went.

Besides the usual learning pains, I had to rebuild the gallery three times - once because the building tutorial I was following neglected to add doorways, the second time because I made too many doorways, and the third because I forgot I needed windows for the curtains.

I also had to rebuild the curtains themselves twice because the first time I built them in the wrong format for animation, and the second time I messed up the animation. As of the time of this writing, the animation will not export to Unity correctly, so the curtains are there in the gallery but static instead of dynamic.

Honestly though, the hardest challenge was figuring out how to change viewing angles in both Unity and Maya! The camera controls aren't that intuitive. But eventually I figured it out.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I'm proud of this entire project, because I went from having absolutely no experience with anything to creating a working gallery that a user can walk around inside and look at.

What I learned

The biggest thing I learned was how to use Unity and Maya, two entirely new and totally intimidating pieces of software to me. I also learned how to learn (which surprised me because I thought I already knew how to learn), and developed a new appreciation for YouTube tutorials and the people who make them. Finally, I learned that people are great resources - I can't tell you how many times I asked my Game Dev major friend for help with the littlest of things, and she was very patient with me.

What's next for A Public of One: An Interactive Museum

I will continue developing the art installations in Unity and Maya, adding the appropriate interactivity and animations so that eventually I will have a completed gallery.

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