VICE: What was the original inspiration behind the Euthanasia Coaster?
Your website described the coaster death as "elegant," which I thought was really interesting. How did you go about designing an "elegant" experience?
In addition to these physiological pleasures, the death coaster hints at the possibility of a unique kind of fatal aesthetics. Falling is a unique experience that sets itself apart from other types of death. While rushing toward the ground (or, in the case of the Euthanasia Coaster, toward the loop), there is a fraction of time for reflection before death comes. In the Euthanasia Coaster, this is exaggerated even more. There's the ride up the tower, the drop, the serpentine fall, a series of the loops, and, eventually, the fatal ride within the last loop.
Another unique aspect is that the spectacle would be open for the public to watch—be it the relatives of the rider or the victims of those sentenced to capital punishment. For the faller it is a painless, engaging, and ritualized death machine. For the observers, it is a monumental mourning machine. Of course, it is not for everybody, much like thrill rides and horror movies.
On the other hand, elegance could be understood in quite different terms. The structure of the coaster itself could be considered an elegant, architectural sculpture. It's actually nothing but the falling trajectory, shaped in the air, and driven just by gravity. Also, if you consider the project as a sci-fi story, you may see elegance in the presentation of the project, such as the sinister and minimalist design of the scale model. It is non-didactic and open for the imaginary rider's interpretation.
Have you been surprised by the public response to the piece? Any really bizarre reactions?
Two years ago, a sci-fi enthusiast wrote me saying how he liked the coaster and the way it refers to Kurt Vonnegut's stories, where euthanasia is used as a topical background. This guy wanted to pay tribute to Vonnegut and realized that getting a tattoo of my coaster was, in his words, a "completely appropriate and beautiful way" to do that. Another weird response was by a potential self-murderer, who requested that I use him as the first guinea pig, should the coaster be brought to life.
There has also been quite interesting feedback from the technical audience. For example, a NASA engineer commented on the coaster in a sci-fi blog. He says he spent some time recalculating the physics of the coaster and found some minor errors in aerodynamics and friction—he also pointed out that the amputees or those with smaller legs may survive the coaster, because there would be little or no volume in the lower extremities to pool the blood.
Another interesting insight was made by a pilot, who happened to attend an exhibition that featured the coaster scale model. He told me that he could hack the machine and survive it by wearing a pilot's anti-gravity pants that inflate during a high-g aircraft maneuver and push the blood upwards. Should it really work, the coaster would be the most extreme ride ever.
Are you afraid of death, personally? What do you imagine happens after a person dies?
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