Eat the World was a project I proposed for Burning Man 2009. The main idea was to focus on the MOUTH as a means of interacting with the world, in much the same way that The Hand Of Man focused on the Hand.
Burning Man elected not to fund the piece. The full text of the proposal can be seen below.
The following is taken from the original proposal for Eat The World:
I have long been interested in exploring, and augmenting, the means and methods by which we humans are able to interact with, interface with, and manipulate the world. Much of this interaction occurs virtually these days, but I am interested in the human body. The human body is not only the most enduring and iconic subject of art through the ages, it is also the only thing we actually really have, when all else is stripped away. It is our vessel, and it is our first, our most immediate, and our most intimate means of interacting with and manipulating the world.
The Hand of Man explored and augmented the most versatile appendage we have, the Hand. EAT THE WORLD will explore that part of the body which I believe is our other main interface with the world, our mouth. Long before we can even use our hands effectively, we suckle our mothers’ breasts. Throughout life we sustain our bodies by ingesting the outside world through our mouths. And although most of us thankfully never experience this, we are even able to bite other living things in animalistic defense.
EAT THE WORLD will enable attendees from Burning Man to actually enter the head of the sculpture, be strapped in to a controller which will pick up the movements of their heads, mouths, arms, and hands, and through the movements of their own bodies control the entire sculpture. The “cockpit”, or central controller area, (which will contain the body-feedback controller area for the “attendee-operator” as well as a second spot for a crew-member/instructor) will be carried within the head itself, so that as the “attendee-operator” moves their own head, they will be taken for a “ride” within the sculpture’s head. Ultimately, the “attendee-operator” is in complete control of their own experience.
I have long subscribed to the theory that the operation of powerful hydraulic mechanical machinery is ultimately just plain fun, and that the more intuitive and seamless the control interface, the more fun the experience can be. The Hand of Man confirmed this theory.
EAT THE WORLD takes the manifestation of this theory a few steps further. Not only is the participant now able to control arms and mouth and thereby actually “feed” him/her-self, but the participant actually has the experience of a “ride” which is directly proportional to their own motions.
If this produces a feeling of “being at the center of the world”, if even for just a few minutes, then “EAT THE WORLD will have done its job!
The experience of the operator, anyone who climbs up into the “cockpit” of EAT THE WORLD, will be highly interactive in a number of ways.
The first interaction is between the operator and the sculpture. The operator will literally and intuitively control the the movements of the piece through the movements of their own body. As opposed to the analog (or “On/Off) nature of the hydraulic valves which controlled the movements of the Hand of Man, Eat the World will make use of Proportional, or Servo, valves. This kind of hydraulic valve makes use of a feedback loop which constantly adjusts the specific hydraulic actuator in the sculpture to match the position of the operator. What this actually means is that the sculpture will respond quickly and seamlessly to the SPEED and POSITION of the operator. It will truly create an intuitive feeling of “being one” with the artwork.
The second interaction is between the sculpture and the environment. The operator may choose to use the hand-like appendages to bring objects up into the mouth and “eat” them, or may simply move things around. It is even possible that “gifts” might be offered up to the giant, shiny, chomping teeth!
And the third interaction will be between the operator, working through the sculpture, and the surrounding crowd of people. I have long observed that spectators of events involving robotic performance are able to experience a kind of vicarious thrill, imagining themselves in the “driver’s seat.” EAT THE WORLD takes this one step further by actually offering that experience to anyone bold enough to ask. This not only opens up the opportunity of running the machine, but also enhances the experience of the audience because they know the operator “up there” is someone just like them. I’m pretty sure the crowds will eat it up!!
And lastly I see no reason that this sculpture could not be climbed when not in use.