About the Project

An interactive installation by Bill Gorcica
to explore the subconscious by physically rowing "through" it


This interactive installation allows participants to row through the artist's subconscious. Navigating through water, one can travel to four different rooms or "boathouses" at each of the four cardinal points (north, south, east and west). Each exterior displays an the archetypal image of a creature from the animal world. Touching the surface of the exterior icon will open a door to its interior which shows a dreamlike scene. The textured surfaces of the chambers make each room a unique emotional and psychological space.


The associated reference pages from The Book of Symbols produced by The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism highlight some of the themes that interested me as an artist. Each of the animal icons is representative of a psychological archetype. Archetypes, according to psychologist Carl Jung, exist in our minds as part of our collective unconscious - a place within each of us that has a sense of common symbolism in the universe. They often appear in different cultures within myths and stories. During dreams, or at times in the creative process, one can access these images. Using such symbols in the virtual world of Rowing through the Subconscious is an attempt to offer participants a way to connect individually with the space. While one person's experience of a horse, for example, can be different than another's, each can still feel the universal sense of the ideas that relate to horse: harnessed raw power, controlled freedom, etc.
The interiors of the "boathouses" are designed to represent aspects of my own unique dreams and subconscious mind. They are loosely tied narratives derived from memories of my own childhood experiences. They are also conceptually connected to the animal symbols. For example, the Dog as a symbol is often presented as a guide during a rite of passage from one place to another. My drawing inside the dog "boathouse" shows a group of campers around a fire. This was a memory of early adolescence, a time when I connected with friends hiking the Appalachian Trail, a time when we were just becoming young men in the world.
Gluing the interior and exterior drawings together are abstract patterns that give each of the rooms an emotional overtone. For a greater sensory experience, soundscapes exist that suggest the energy of a particular space and time.


This work is a mixture of digital art, sculpture, software programming and engineering. It is exciting to combine such a blend of elements together. The software (Unity3D game engine and Processing application) and hardware (Arduino microcontroller) are both open-source, which allows anyone to use and enhance the products, an empowering concept. There are sensors in the oars to measure contact with the ground plane, and rotation of movement. This data is transferred via the Arduino board to a computer which communicates with the Processing application, which sends sensor readings to the Unity3d game engine. The oars thereby act as the equivalent of a mouse and keyboard to control movement in virtual space. The drawings are made in Photoshop with a Wacom drawing tablet.
Rowing through the Subconscious is a work-in-progress. It operates, but is a bit delicate for public use. Therefore, it will only be rowable at dedicated times during the exhibition. The game world itself has been developed so that each room will allow participants to move to a different level with new scenes in the future. Since the next scenes is not yet complete, currently each room can be entered but is not a portal to other places. Stay tuned for further development viewable on www.billgorcica.com


Special thanks go to Andrew Nordin for the opportunity to test out this new piece, and for assistance in installation; John Liu, professor of physics at St. Cloud State University, who provided technical advice and who soldered the complex set of fourteen wires together for a more durable solution; and the open source community for providing code snippets that helped piece the software together.
This work has been made possible through the support of an Artist Initiative Fellowship from the Minnesota State Arts Board, a Faculty Development Grant from St. Cloud State University, and a scholarship for an artist residency at the Banff New Media Institute entitled Almost Perfect, where the first prototype was created and demonstrated.