The Avocado Experience
During the Weird Reality show, I had the great pleasure to work the untitled avocado virtual reality experience by Scott Andrew and the Institute for New Feeling. During my five hour shift I got to explore the piece fairly deeply, and had the great opportunity of seeing how so many people interpreted and reacted to the work differently.
The experience began in a warehouse with a few bins of interested objects around the perimeter. If the user picked up an object, it would likely say that the object was out of stock. However, if the user picked up an avocado, the user was transported to a fantasy world. In this world the used embarked on a truck journey, one which the user was much more limited in movement, and if the user let go of the avocado, they would be brought back to the warehouse. Each time the user returned to the fantasy world they were brought back to the beginning of the truck journey. Through out the journey, the user was able to tap on an “add to cart” button with their available hand. While the user had no visual response whether or not they had successfully added the avocado to cart, in the browser on the computer it was possible to see the number of avocados in the cart. After the experience is over, the user was able to purchase the avocados on Amazon. When on the truck journey, the user was driving around a long curve through an avocado farm, and could see Aztec pyramids in the horizon. When driving through the farm, there were billboards throughout with statements about drought, or photos of models. After the user reached the end of the curve, they were able to see the destination of the truck. This destination was a large house with the fourth wall missing, allowing the truck to drive right into the living room. There was a TV on the far wall, with a sports game playing. On either side of the TV was a portrait of Vladimir Putin, and a portrait of a german shepherd. Once at the house the user was able to hear George Bush Jr. and his wife speaking. Once the user had been in the house for a moment, they were transported back to the warehouse.
For some users, the truck journey was long and a bit of a let down. After being transported back to the warehouse, they would take off the Vive and ask, “That’s it?”, while others would laugh in delight. Some users never got to the house because they were having too much fun picking up, throwing, juggling and playing with the avocados. Others, however, rarely picked up an avocado, and enjoyed the challenge of trying to grab things that were out of reach or inaccessible.
At the end of the night (2am), I was able to fully explore the experience for myself, and I took the luxury to read the rather long artist statement that existed above the avocado bin in the virtual warehouse. This is where I got the chance to learn fascinating information such as, “Avocado” is from Nahuatl word “ahuacatl”, which means “testicle”, which helped make the fruit sound more exotic than its original name “Alligator-Pear”. The statement followed the fruit’s rise to popularity through the late 20th century. A lot of people put a lot of time and money in to advertising and branding the avocado. The fruit was supposed to be a symbol for the California dream – the fruit of the healthy and happy. While on the truck journey, the user sees all the billboards that explain key moments in the history of the fruit, including a promotion which included winning a “Mrs Ripe” contest to be on Baywatch. It also included the Tom Selleck scandal. The Bush’s voices are present due to the choking incident in 2002. In essence this long and anticlimactic ride on a truck is a representation of the capitalistic efforts to bring rise to a fruit named after male gentiles.