Secret of Eternal Levitation

they have learned the secret of eternal levitation – Sheik Al Maktoum of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in his revere to the enigmatic floating island of Laputa in “Gulliver’s Travels“

Video demo:

“The Secret of Eternal Levitation” is an interactive installation with an augmented reality (AR) mobile device component that explores the power dynamics and structural relationships between contemporary visions of utopian urbanization and real world economic, political and environmental factors. Drawing from existing interpretations of the “ideal” global city as projected by the fantastical constructions of cities such as Dubai or Beijing, the project creates an interactive narrative around a fictional multinational developer called “Laputa Isles” who is engaged in the process of envisioning the next urban oasis.

The artwork references the floating island of Laputa in “Gulliver’s Travels” in which enlightened aristocrats are too impractical in their lofty thoughts to meet their basic physical needs and must extract resources from the villagers below in order to survive. When the aristocrats on Laputa were angry at the villagers, they would float the island over them, covering the region in shade preventing rain or sunshine and thus destroying crops and food production.

Based on this theme, the interactive installation is designed as a futuristic sales kiosk owned by the transnational real estate corporation “Laputa Isles.” At the kiosk, gallery visitors can create a custom dream home in a gated community of their choice: Tiki Bay, Desert Oasis, etc. The gated communities are actually 3D modeled virtual floating islands. Using the kiosk’s glowing joystick, visitors navigate the earth (via a simulation of Google Earth) sucking up the resources needed to build their dream home community including building materials, energy and labor. A data visualization shows how much resources are needed for each step of the process.

When their dream home community is complete, visitors can use a mobile device (smart phone or tablet) to view their home “virtually” floating in the sky.

The project debuted at the 2012 International Symposium on Electronic Art and was exhibited at 516 Arts in Albuquerque, NM. Funding and support through a 2011 HARPO award. Computer programming by Tim Scaffidi. 3D model assistance through Center for Computational Research at University at Buffalo.