A New York Times article reported that museums and galleries are experiencing low attendance in recent years. In order to attract returning and new visitors, curators are designing new engagement strategies that are targeted to millennials, asking the question “How do static galleries of canvas and artifact engage a generation raised on the reactive pleasures of right swipes and hyperlinks?” (Cannell, 2015)
The project started as an investigation to bring emerging technology in the museum setting, and changing the ways visitors interact in museums. In an interview with Mark Snyder, director of exhibitions at the Museum of Sex, he advocated the use of emerging technology to “push the boundaries of traditional Museum-going experiences and encourage patrons to appreciate physical art.” The Museum of Sex featured an immersive campground installation that explored the complexities of human sexuality in multiple physical, visual and olfactory experiences through five interactive tents.
After visiting the Museum of Sex located in New York City, I was intrigued by a gloryhole wooden panel on display from 1930 New York. The lack of context and description of the wooden panel inspired me to create an immersive virtual reality installation that explores the history and future of gloryhole in a digital setting.
The experience starts with the player situated in the midst of a forest with an outdoor adult arcade booth full of neon lights. At the center of the booth, a gloryhole appears and whistles at the player, encouraging the player to touch the banana to start the game. When the player squeezes on the dildo controller, the game begins.
Gloryhole contains a collection of short simple games inspired by Wario Ware. Each of these microgames lasts about three to five seconds and must be completed, or else a life will be lost. The player needs to look around the virtual space, identify objects, and squeeze the dildo controller to move to the next stage. These mini games represent abstract forms of gay sexual activities that the player can engage in. Games include licking a giant ice cream at the beach, squeezing a fish in a samurai room, identifying the banana painting in a museum, shooting bananas into a giant mouth on a soccer field, and locating the red penis in a black and white space.
Currently, there are 5 different mini games on random order. To win the game and unlock the ultimate ending, the player needs to complete 20 mini games. The ultimate ending shows the player sitting in front of a computer in a plain white room, suggesting that the virtual gloryhole is after all, an illusion.
The hardware for the exhibition includes a foam board wall, and a custom game controller made with arduino uno. Visitors are encouraged to write their thoughts on the gloryhole wall, paying tribute to the dingy public lavatories where gloryholes are often practiced.
The dildo controller is embedded with flex sensor inside the plastic banana toy. When the player squeezes the banana, a signal is send to the arduino, and that data is then transferred to the game to determine how hard the player squeezed. The original banana toy can be purchased here.