2010 : Monolith
interactive installation

Proverbs 1:7 Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction

Remember being frightened by 'strange' sounds? What was that dreadful thing you feared? Was it real or a delusion? – You would never know. Mired in fear we can imagine all kinds of terrible things that might befall us.

In his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Darwin noted that “fear is often preceded by astonishment, and is so far akin to it, that both lead to the senses of sight and hearing being instantly aroused”. Fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar may have been the moving force of evolution, yet it can paralyze one’s mind and lead to all sorts of irrational or drastic behavior. Experienced within a larger group of people fear may be compounded by social influence and become mass hysteria.

Inciting fear has always been and still is a very potent political weapon of manipulation. Politicians, the media and other powerful groups profit from our fears. Anxiety is the dominant mood in current society responsible for creating the “culture of fear”.  Brainwashed and conditioned, we are afraid of change and aging, pain and death, natural catastrophes and technological malfunctions, terrorism and wars, economic crises and uncertainty about the future, intimacy and loneliness. In contemporary culture fear is no longer a subjective feeling or personal emotion. Instead it has become a socially acceptable behavioral norm even if the subject of fear has no substance, is nothing more than a phantom or an illusion and exists only in one’s imagination.

“Monolith” deals with the complexities of fear as a contemporary social phenomenon. By letting the viewer experience fear, the installation offers critical insights into the effect of cultural conditioning in contemporary society. Furthermore, it provides social comments on collective emotional standards and the dominant conventions of a society in which the media constantly amplify fear.

Upon entering a dark room, seemingly empty except for a black box in the far corner, the viewer is confronted with the hostile sound of buzzing wasps coming from the speakers attached to the walls. As he moves towards the box, the aggressive buzzing gets louder, coming now from the box itself. Coming closer the viewer perceives a transformation in the shape of the box and its slightly illuminated surface, while the scary warning sound that it emits grows stronger and becomes overwhelming.  As the viewer attempts to approach, the box jerks violently towards him, physically challenging him to step back.

The black box in this installation evokes the strange black monolith in Kubrik’s iconic film “2001 – A Space Odyssey”, in which it represents the alchemical “prima materia” or “philosopher’s stone”, inert and impenetrable. But the black box in Dementieva’s installation is agile and responsive, mutating and communicating aggressively, as if trying to warn us against some inevitable danger and transform our consciousness.

Julia NItsberg

Technical description:

1. Mac
2. 7 small computer speakers
3. 1 big speaker with amplifier
4. M-Audio 410 firewire
5. 2 motors
6. interface DMX

hardware : Interface-Z
programing : Bart Vandeput
set design : Peter Maschke
technical support : Interface-Z

Co-production : ADEM vzw, SMART vzw