You may recall a few months ago when I told you I was going to be making a colossal installation of the 8-bit driving game Pole Position that you play using an actual car. Notably, I wasn’t lying — the installation will open August 6, and, even better, the car used to control it is an ‘82 Lancia Zagato — that’s being pixellated.
The installation is at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which is, as it’s name subtly suggests, in Indianapolis. I’m not. That’s why it made much more sense to get a car from the area and have it modified there. And boy was I delighted with the car we found — a non-running (if you can possibly believe that) 1982 Lancia Zagato. I think these were Lancia Betas everywhere else in the world. It was period-correct (I’m using an Atari 400 version of Pole Position, also from 1982), had the right look and feel, was open-topped, and, most importantly, I’ve always wanted a Lancia, even if it’s one that’s never going to actually run.
Normally, I’m used to doing as much of the physical fabrication work on my art stuff as possible, for better or worse. This time, since the car was out in Indianapolis, I’m working with an amazing shop called iFab (Indianapolis Fabrications), who are taking my drawings and sketches and turning them into a real, physical blocky, pixellated Lancia. There’s no doubt they’re doing a better job than I would have, but I have to admit there’s still something slightly intoxicating and surreal about sending over drawings and having them become actual things without getting all dirty.
From what I can see of the pictures of the car in the paint booth, it looks like its coming along great — I think it should feel like an ‘80s video game car emerged in our world, and when the system is projecting the massive Pole Position game on the big screen, with its brick-sized pixels, I think it should look just right.
I have been rigging up the electronic interface between the physical driving controls and the Atari computer here, and I’ll be bringing that with me for installation when I get to Indy tomorrow. The first test was on my Beetle, and I’ve since improved some things and am using much more robust parts, since, hopefully, many many people will try this ridiculous thing out. I didn’t have a spare steering wheel handy to test with (I know, I’m a fool) so I had to use this strange Moshe Dayan commemorative plate thing that a friend found in a dumpster in LA.
Moshe Dayan’ cyclopean face would make for a pretty engaging steering wheel horn button, I’m realizing.
Everything is coming together, and the next day or two will be spent getting the car to the amphitheater where this installation will live, and connecting everything together, along with lots of hoping it all works and probably a little bit of swearing.
So, if you’ve ever wanted the sensation of being digitized by a 6502-based computer in the early 1980s and forced to race cars, I think you’ll enjoy this installation. I’ll be giving a talk the night of the opening, Thursday, August 6, and in case anyone from the museum is reading this, of course it’s totally done and ready and I’m not going to be getting it all together tonight. I mean, who would do that?
If you’re in Indianapolis, please, come on out to see this thing! I’ll try to keep you posted as things come together. I’m excited — this is one of those things that I always thought would be fun to do since I was a kid, but never really thought I’d have the opportunity to do something so bonkers. Thanks, Indianapolis Museum of Art, and especially curator Scott Stulen, the man who said “okay” to this insane idea.
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