Rattymade is designed to give the user the rat’s eye view on a day-in-the-life of a street rat in New York City. Much like one can pick up a seashell and hear the ocean, by placing a rat skull to their ear user’s can listen to a whimsical audial journey, from the calmness of the outside, to the danger of the city streets, and underground to the chaos of the subway – New York’s terrain from one inch off the ground.
To create this perspective, we searched high and low for the proper staging, including a pristine rat skull, a manhole cover/sewer grate, blue tooth ear piece, and the proper enclosure for the hand-held device. Much of our planning time was spent finding these items, and without having to go all the way to Alaska to pick up a manhole cover, we were able to get all of our parts JUST in time to put the project together.
We began our “build” by dissecting owl pellets, in hopes of finding inspiration and a few good bones for the piece.
There were some great femurs and teeth to be found. We put the bones in a jar of water over night, to get the remaining debris off of them.
In our journey to find the perfect rat skull, big enough for one to hold in their hand and seem substantial, we explored the vast boneyard that is the internet. Along the way we found some unusual hobbyists and places to buy human remains, until finally we found our skull on Etsy. After waiting patiently for its arrival, we began to visualize how we might have the user interact with the device: how will they hold it, what kind of encasing could house this, how might it not break easily.
As the weather dropped below 10 degrees, we dropped to the ground-level to record sound. We landed at Washington Square Park, the NR Subway at 8th Street, the corner of 7th & Broadway, and another NYU building interior. Combining rat and animal sound clips that we discovered (here, here & here), we edited the rat’s audial story and placed it into our Max Patch. (Aaron Montoya was a great help with Max).
We also looked into a way to pump the sound into the rat. We landed on a bluetooth earpiece that we planned to mount into the skull. However, the earpiece was a bit too large and the skull a bit too closed and fragile. So we decided to build an enclosure that would not only be easy to hold, but also amplify the sound, once put to the ear. We tried taking apart the headset to fit it in various mounts. We spent a considerable amount of time working with the best way to merge the skull and the earpiece on to a mount and performed a lot of testing.
We were still waiting for the manhole/sewer cover to arrive and thought to try out a bit of light on our project. Testing green LEDs, our goal was to have a green glow emanate from within the manhole sewer cover, and get the lights to get brighter as the user gets closer.
After a manhunt for the manhole cover, we finally tracked down the package at the NYU mail center* and began to put the pieces together.
It’s coming – Get Ratty for it!
*Note: If you are ordering from USPS, the order will take an additional day (or two or three) to arrive on the Floor. Also, holidays extend that period.