When the U.S. housing market collapsed in 2008, so did the dreams of many middle and lower-class Americans. Florida, California, Nevada, and Arizona were hit particularly hard, and not by a force of nature or an act of God, but by the abstract and invisible hand of the market. Prior to the collapse, the movements of global capital seemed like a distant reality to most homeowners, but in the end it was imaginary systems of value and not bricks and mortar that fell apart. Open House is a networked art installation that allows visitors to telematically inhabit a "distressed” home in Gainesville, Florida.
The house at 1617 NW 12 Road is currently in financial limbo while undergoing an extended process of foreclosure due to the housing collapse. Virtual markets transformed this otherwise livable property into a ghost house. Open House allows individuals to repopulate disenfranchised space and assume the role of virtual squatters opening the doors, flicking the lights, rattling the shutters, and remotely occupying abandoned property. Live video feedback integrates real-time physical effects with virtual actions. Through Open House, virtual squatters can temporarily resist eviction by mirroring the market and occupying both virtual and physical space.
In 1981, the Ronald Reagan’s speechwriters popularized the idea that one could comprehend the U.S. national debt through the image of a billion thousand-dollar bills stacked 67 miles high. This idea was recalled during the U.S. bailout in 2008 where 67 miles turned into 67,000 miles, or the distance to the moon and back. The difficulty of these images is that they are designed to frame the totality of a virtual system in terms of a single human perspective. In contrast to these images, Open House offers a complex series of computational processes, mechanical relays, and human interactions to trouble the distinction between the abstract information of finance capital and the phenomenology of physical space.
Made with Jack Stenner and exhibited at the University of Florida, the High Museum of Art, SIGGRAPH, and published in Leonardo in 2011–2012.