artist's statement

I have conceived this installation in an attempt to create a “zone of discomfort” as the viewer both immerses themselves in the installation and also experiences inner reflection on the issues raised in their own mind in the process.

The viewer is subjected to pitch blackness and a disturbing sound. They are drawn towards the only light – a spyhole at the other end of the space. What they encounter when they peer into that spyhole is the catalyst to their engagement with the work.

The sensory deprivation the viewer will endure will align them emotionally with what they see, and may instigate the construction of a narrative of their own – perhaps questioning their own vulnerability and mortality.


The installation addresses many everyday fears – some not uncommonly being the fear of personal injury, the threat of violence and possible impending death. A hostage situation could be a mise en scène for this work – it deals with the aforementioned fears as well as addressing several others such as the fear of deprivation of basic human rights, incarceration (leading to claustrophobia), adverse sanitary and dietary conditions and sensorial deprivation (blindfolding, binding and gagging), and frequently resulting in hallucinatory fantasies.

This area of research led me to look at some academic viewpoints on the psychology of abduction and hostage situations emanating from the prevalent wave of terrorism in recent years.

The passage of text that accompanies the installation and appears beside the entrance to the tunnel is an excerpt from UK Ministry of Defence guidelines for potential hostages. The entire text is rational, pragmatic and quite depressing in that it promotes an affinity and appreciation – almost glorification – of the captor, and strongly recommends submission by the captive to best avoid the ultimate outcome. I have portrayed the passage as a schoolroom blackboard exercise might be – demonstrating that it’s content will most probably go unheeded by those who require the knowledge the most.

The main intent of the installation is to impose a psychological burden on the viewer as they engage, first with a dark, ambiguous realm and then subsequently, as they are attracted to a solitary red luminescence situated at the far end wall of the cave-like structure. By depriving them of normal vision with the blackness and shifting focus to an auditory sensation, they will experience perhaps a similar perception of being blindfolded and a heightening in other senses.

As they approach this small red glow a sound of dripping water and indistinct echoes of human activity in the distance is heard – a feeling of uneasiness may be felt at this early stage as a notion of expectancy develops.

Curiosity will draw the viewer closer to the mysterious light and cause them to peer into what will now be evident as a small aperture revealing a constricted view of a dimly-lit compartment on the other side.

Not with any great comfort do they then position themselves, crouching on hands and knees, to observe what lies in this peculiarly glowing chamber beyond their darkened cave.

Peering through the aperture the viewer discovers a motionless, seated figure, hooded and bound with cloth stained with the result of unknown – but imagined – atrocities.

My intention was to create an atmosphere – a situation – whereby the viewer engages emotionally with the work. This may be in the form of the uneasy feeling of serendipitous voyeurism, or it may evoke pity, despair or revulsion at not necessarily what they observe, but what they perceive may have occurred prior to their arrival.

The installation addresses the concept of interaction with one’s imagination – an individual narrative is developed in the mind of the viewer from the sparse details displayed before them.

The minimalist presentation serves many purposes in the resolution of the work: the blacked out entry chamber at once disarms the viewer – in fact, no longer does the eponym contain validity, now that vision is in denial; the lure of the red light performs only an enticement to approach the far end of the chamber – a further awkward maneouvre of positioning is necessary to conduct the observation through the aperture; and, the soundscape simply consists of water dripping at first and then, as the viewer discovers, distressed breathing emanating from the chamber beyond.

It is this minimalistic reduction of sensory elements that emulates and identifies with the monotony and basic palette of experiences in the context of the hostage’s domain. The interacting viewer is confronted with the disorientation of having to navigate a strange space in near total darkness; subjected to the repetitious dripping sound (mind-numbing enough for a few minutes let alone hours or days on end); and then finally, confronted with the macabre image that is viewed at the end of the space.

It is a possibility that the viewer – after experiencing this sensory deprivation and manipulation – may relate to the poor unfortunate on the other side of the spyhole and cause him/her to question their own vulnerability and mortality.

21 June 2006, SASA