Ode to Frances (2022)

How will we weaponize data from “innocent” smart home devices, such as smart water meters? [Read: The Guardian’s “Inspector gadget: how smart devices are outsmarting criminals”]

Ode to Frances is a game for 1-3 players. The player becomes a detective and has to solve a gruesome murder case that took place in the dollhouse in front of them. Through a tablet, they can read police reports and interact with the house’s smart home technology. 

What happened to the Judsons? Kate, Robert and baby Linda Mae all met a very bloody end. Was it their neighbor, or the Amazon delivery driver? Or perhaps suicide? By understanding what their smart home devices recorded, and how they were automated and used, you might be able to solve this case. But beware, you only have 15 minutes. 

In collaboration with set designer Isa van Weert.

Commissioned by Mélanie van der Hoorn for Playing Architecture - het spel om de stad at Arcam.
Made possible by the EFL Stichting and Sipkema Beheer.
On show until 28 May 2023 at Arcam in Amsterdam.   

Frances Glessner Lee (1878–1962)
Source: Wikipedia

The lay-out, scale and contents of the house are an exact (but modernized) copy of Frances Glessner Lee’s Three-Room Dwelling, one of the true crime cases she used in her series of forensic dioramas called The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. The solutions to her cases remain a secret, as they’re still being used in forensic training settings. Glessner Lee called the dioramas the Nutshell Studies because the purpose of a forensic investigation is said to be to "convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell." Students were instructed to study the scenes methodically and draw conclusions from the visual evidence. For Ode to Frances, we picked one of the leading theories about this case.

On your right, a comparison between the original and Ode to Frances. The bakelite phone is replaced by an iPhone. In the kitchen, a Roomba is stuck in a puddle of blood. The Ring doorbell camera saw important people enter and leave the house.