Powering Up the Car Barn

Mario Bros Praxis

The idea for this project was born during a discussion on Psycogeography, the Situationist International, and one of its most prominent members, Guy Debord. We were discussing how spaces exert power on the individuals and constrains, not only the way they move, but also the way they behave and interact with each other. By using gaming iconography to awaken certain behavior on the population of the Car Barn at Georgetown University I was trying to change the monotony of everyday life inside of this space.

I decided to use the Mario Bros sprite and the different elements of the original NES game to harness the playful memories that most people have regarding this specific game, and in doing so, change the way the move and behave. I folded yellow cardboard into boxes to make the question block, and I printed out the Mario sprite, with the brick blocks and clouds.

I made six different sets of these and hung them around the third level of the Car Barn building at Georgetown. Each of the question blocks was filled with chocolate golden coins. On each of these installations, I positioned Mario underneath the question block, to indicate that something valuable was inside. I was really banking on the idea that people would feel intrigue by, (1), the question block, (2) the jumping Mario, and (3) the fact the only 3D object was the block itself.

During the first two weeks, you would hear people whistling the Mario Bros theme song around the third floor, many people were helping each other to reach the question blocks that were in high places and so forth. The Mario Bros installation actually changed the ambience and the way people related to the space, which was really fun to see.

Future Plans for the Installation

For future iterations of the project, I have been thinking of using the actual music to improve the whole experience. It would be possible to use ultrasound sensor to detect people moving in the area. This would allow me to hide the sets better and make people follow the music to find the question blocks. It would be interesting to use the Marios to have people explore the space they are at, but that would depend very much on the site where the installation is happening.

One extra thing that would make the installation better for the future is improving the actual question blocks. For this first time, I just did origami boxes, but it would be nicer to have 3D printed boxes, in which I could actually make a spring mechanism, that once triggered would launch the coins outside of the box. This could be done by a mechanical set up or maybe using Arduino Lilypad and some force sensor. But to actually know what works best, it would be better to actually test both option.