Lost, 2009 Nicosia, Cyprus
An event about conquering your own fears,
Entering the exhibition space a confrontation with cuing people who are waiting to enter the unknown is encountered. There is a bar serving drinks. At the end of the bar, a door in a wall appears. Next to the door gas masks are hanging. Two people with ‘Lost’ outfits are instructing the visitors and helping them in the gas masks. One by one the visitors are allowed to enter the installation. There is a conspicuous tension filling the atmosphere.
The cue is moving slowly and the wait is long, but when finally receiving the gas mask you are instructed not to remove the gas mask at any time. A last check is done to be sure that the mask is fitted correct and is not leaking. The door opens and a narrow reveals a second door. It is a claustrophobic narrow corridor. In the corridor you get aware of your own breathing in the mask, which is slowly increasing. Images in your mind and associations of people with gas masks are giving you an ominous feeling of what is to come. Questions like: “would this be the feeling when you are living in a situation and this is daily reality”, are coming to mind. The tension is building up. Finally the second door is approached. The door is merely a heavy black curtain. When shifting it aside a darkness and blindness confronts you. In this darkness there are blurry shades of illuminated figures visible. Patterns are changing slowly. Sounds are emerging from all sides, but nothing is explicit. Footsteps are approaching but nobody appears. As silent as the sounds of footsteps appear they disappear again in the seemingly nothingness. A small panic creeps up your chest. Questions like: “Do I really like to go in” and “shall I go back” are playing your mind. A dense mist surrounds the environment and in this haze where you can hardly see the edge of your own hand, lights and shadows are playing a sinister game of hide and seek. The moment you decide to enter this forlorn place seems to take hours. You are confronted with a distorted perception of time. A feeling of panic is grabbing your guts. The more we are confronted with the unknown the more our body signals us that there is something wrong, something bad is going to happen. Our brain squeezes to make sense of it all, and to find some recognizable elements to comfort our disturbed feeling of being lost and to calm our increased hearth rate and feeling of panic. You are experiencing a heavy reluctance to move and discover yourself as being frozen, paralyzed in a solid state. You are still standing at the entrance of the door. What if you go in, will you find your way out again. The more you hesitate the more unpleasant it seems to go in. Suddenly you realize you are not alone. Out of the mist in front of you a person, unrecognizable with a gas mask, slowly materializes in front of you. This provides the incentive and feeling of confidence. You take the step and there you are finding yourself in a space where shadows of masked people are passing by. You hear your own breathing and take some steps more. Light spots are moving in the space, where it was dark before a lighted cloud appears, sounds are moving from one side next to you to another side. The lighted clouds are traveling through a space where you cannot estimate how big it is. It seems infinite big. After a couple of steps you realize that you are totally lost. When finally accepting this fact, you realize that your heartbeat is relaxing. Even more that you start to enjoy this moment of solitary confrontation with your own mechanisms of fear. You begin to explore the space, not really interested of what you will find, but delighted what you have learned about your self. You conquered your fear and nothing else matters anymore.
This text has been written after interviewing visitors leaving the installation. The installation created an orchestrated composition of a particular experience and a conquest of internal emotions. These emotions are mostly left out of our experience in our daily lives. We try to insure us of everything to not experience uncertainty. Being lost is the direct reflection of our own fears of this uncertainty. We are not in control anymore. Animal type of instincts are taking over. Perception starts to distort. However the moment of accepting this condition, we are liberated from these fears and are able to act accordingly. Most of the visitors stayed an average of 15 minutes inside the installation. Almost all visitors came out with an elevated level of energy. The visitors who had most difficulties of accepting the fact of being lost returned several times in the installation. The experience of being lost became an emotional exploration of our own psyche and behavioral conditioned social structure. It was perceived as a psychological mirror. More projects are planned to uncover other hidden territories of our mind.
collage from the manuals of the gas masks which were borrowed.