folio: who’s afraid of the dark?

The Concept

The installation explored the relationship between human fear and darkness. It was stimulated by my own observations of life in an urban environment. Through my practice as a lighting designer I have been fascinated by the idea of darkness. Yet, I had began to notice that in my daily life I very rarely experienced anything resembling complete darkness. Darkness had been banished to the fringes of my city in an attempt to make us all feel safer at night. After some initial research I found reports that suggested the well-founded belief that brighter lights lead to safer spaces was not always true.

This new-found knowledge stimulated a range of questions that influenced the development of this work: what was it about light that makes us feel safe? What is it about darkness that we as humans fear? Where does this fear come from? How does the dark challenge our sense of safety? What impact has popular culture — for example horror movies and Gothic fiction — had on this perception? What is the relationship between fear and the Sublime?

As part of the development for this work I camped overnight in the Australian bush without any light sources. Following the camping trip, I completed a two week residency with live arts company Punctum, that are based in central Victoria in an old hospital that had been converted into an arts space. Over the two weeks I conducted a number of experiments to test different theories I was developing in relation to fear and darkness. From these experiments, I created an immersive environment in the Intensive Culture Unit (ICU) that the audience was invited to experience.

Early Concept Sketch

Public Outcome

Audience members arrived at the ICU.

On arrival they were invited to wait in The Waiting Room.

The Waiting Room contained party snacks, drinks, music and magazines to entertain the audience while they waited.

One by one, audience members were randomly invited to be led by their host (the artist) to view the work in the basement.

Once in the basement, the audience member was guided inside a curtained cone, which contained a chair, a hospital table with some strange instruments and a number of hanging light globes. Next to the chair was a torch, that they were instructed to use if then needed it. A strange dripping sound could be heard in the space.

When the guide had returned up stairs, the lights on the table began to change, strange voices could be heard, doors sketched and slammed and a dog barked somewhere in the distance. Slowly, the lights inside the world began to dim and lights from beyond showed glimpses of the world outside. The sound built to a climax and then all was still.

From the stillness, a second guide appeared to invite the audience member to return upstairs.

On their return to the Waiting Room audience members were instructed not to talk to anyone about what they had seen.

When all audience members had been downstairs, they were encouraged to share their experiences with the group.

Images from Public Outcome

Photos by Tara Gilbee

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Previous posts that track the development of this work :

Upwards and Onwards – Melville Caves site visit

Night at the Caves – Meliville Caves overnight camp

ICU Week One – Intensive Creative Development

ICU Week Two – Intensive Creative Development

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