Tag Archives: space

Beautiful Brainwashing Machine

tanks_installed  The visual deprivation tanks are installed. They are still a work in progress, a baby requires constant care! I have installed a handle and hook inside the tanks so that participants can shut themselves in without an attendant there to lock them in. This will change the entire way people interact with the piece. Having an attendant there is anxiety inducing because people might feel odd with someone hovering. If people have the freedom to come and go they will linger more with the piece which is the goal.the_way_out_people_in_line

On opening night of our MFA thesis exhibition Ian (assistant) was a space druid usher, letting people into the tanks. “Would you like some booties?” A genius opening line to make people comfortable in the shadow of this intimidating art beast. Since I wanted that night to be a spectacle it made sense. There was a long line of people who increased my confidence. Some people came out of the tanks wanting to meditate longer; others were disturbed by it. Success! Sometimes when I talk with faculty I don’t think they don’t get what I’m doing or even like it very much. Any bit of positive feedback helps.

This is a one minute clip of the sound design. The birds-eye view of the tanks reveal a setup reminiscent of the human head (left ear/head/right ear). The soundtrack is stereo with ‘euphoria’ on the left and ‘dysphoria’ on the right. The center of the tunnel is the crossfade. This clip simulates moving from left to right in the tanks. Using these extremes of sound 1) makes for an engaging soundtrack, 2) references the range of human states of mind, and 3) points to the extreme uses of sensory deprivation (historically, for torture and therapy).the_way_out_install

Toby (industrial designer) and I changed the hydraulic lifts so that they match the doors’ weight better. The other lifts were for a door weighing 136 pounds–they were difficult to lift and split the wood on the sides.  There is light leakage around the doors. I wanted to see if I could get away with that and be happy. I’m not. The advanced sculpture class that I TA in came by and agreed–for my concept of visual deprivation to heighten the senses I must seal all cracks of light. Greg (assistant) and I are finishing this up Wednesday and then finally I can call it done. Er, ‘done.’


I created visualization cards. Take a look above and try it out! These are inspired by religious ephemera that you find in small town diners and snuck in library books. Usually you see Jesus.

I need feedback on The Way Out community. Does it need a god-like thing to worship, a ‘face’ to the void representing the stuff of the universe? I was thinking of creating something called Space Face, the energy in everything. What do you think?

My thesis paper will be the beginnings of a collage style book I am writing called The Way Out: Tenants, Rites, and Rituals. I will focus on the tenants of The Way Out community in this paper. Here is an idea of what I will do but it’s rough at this point. That should be telling that I haven’t started my paper.
01) Introduction (outline of the project and research)
02) Sensory deprivation –> sensory activation
03) Towards a utopic information system
04) A dismantling of Earth’s surveillance machine
05) Peaceful anarchy?
06) The importance of play
07) Spirituality without restriction (SPACE FACE?)
08) Leaving a small footprint: the cult of nature
09) Social rituals define our human-ness
10) Language with meaning
11) Places and spacessun_and_moon

I will use the framework of new religious movements (Scientology, Mormonism, etc.) but with theories and ideas I believe in. I like the confusion of using their methods and critiquing them simultaneously. Through their methods I gain a respect for them, for their ability to tap into peoples’ psychological needs, even though some have done awful things.

Here’s my artist statement as a reminder of where I am coming from.
The problem isn’t you, it’s Earth. The Way Out is a community we’ve established on the moon in response to our planet’s terminal illness. Earth is a lost cause and living on it leads to permanent brain damage.

The Way Out awakens our senses and deprograms Homo sapiens of neurotic behaviors, freeing us. Our greatest lunar development: specialized deprivation tanks. The sounds emitted in the chambers allow you to reconnect with your body’s primordial reptilian instincts. This is an invitation.


It’s Not You, It’s Earth.

First a question. Is it better to sleep one hour or not sleep at all?


Imagine yourself NOT on Earth. The Way Out is a lunar community we’ve established in reaction to Earth’s harmful ways. The Way Out: Deprivation Tanks are evidence of our revolutionary Earth de-programming techniques. Don’t you want to be here?

image_with_personThis photo is an untouched image of a tank interior.


The visual deprivation tanks I am building are a small part of a larger concept of a quasi-religious lunar community. Another segment is a book I would like to publish, The Way Out Manual for Living.

the_way_out_book_cover_experimentI also have a plan for an installation that will be a recruitment room for new members of The Way Out. At a later date I will go into more details about it. I plan to build dioramas of landscapes and fictional buildings on the moon, photograph them, and print them large format. I will make a propaganda video and include a bench so people can sit and soak in The Way Out. There will be takeaways such as brochures.

But now, back to my thesis project.

The object:

One tank is done except for touch-ups, the second tank will be done by the end of the week, and the tunnel is coming along nicely. A million thanks to Toby, Greg, & Ian for their help on this. The amount of hours we have spent on my project is making me a little nutty.

Here are some of the guts:

interior_tunnel_panel02A cross-section of the MDF panels.

DSC03232Toby’s baby, the tunnel.

and a finished tank, minus the door:

DSC03231The hatch doors are also in process. I plan to go to the junkyard this weekend to get 2 sets of hydraulic lifts out of a car trunk so that the doors open slowly and wonderfully. The tanks will be lined with black stuffed body pillows, stuffed so tight as to feel like a solid, undulating foam floor. Even though the sculpture gets the same amount of space on the blog as the other components, it is the sculpture that I have been spending 99% of my time on.

The sound & light:

I recorded the early music vocal ensemble Contrapunctus last Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland. They performed works from the time of Mary Queen of Scots. The ensemble was phenomenal and the cathedral had an absurd amount of stained glass windows. The recording will serve as my base track for the sound design, which I will manipulate and layer with other sounds.

dreamhouseEach tank will have one or two speakers. I will use the same sound palette for both tanks but manipulate them so much that there is a different soundtrack in each tank. As you move through the space you will perceive the interaction between the soundtracks. I am inspired by Dream House in NYC.

The only light in the tanks will be a battery-powered LED light in the center of the tunnel. I will attach it to the top center with a magnet and put a frosted plexi dome over it. I realized I could place the participant closer to where I want him/her to be by making the tanks near-black. The light will just help guide people through the tunnel.

The opening:

I will likely have an usher at the opening for crowd control. He/she will open the doors of the tanks and wear some sort of space-druid costume I think (or maybe just a white robe).  I will also have visualization cards as takeaways. They will have the URL for my website on them (www.findthewayout.org).

the_way_out_best_sketchI have a question for you. I had a studio visit with Malcolm Cochran. He suggested I include some of my sketches on the wall leading to the tank. I guess he liked them. Here’s why it might be a good idea:
1) At the opening, if people can’t go in the tanks due to crowds they will have something of my work to see.
2) Some people aren’t into “artwork that you have to take your shoes off and climb into” or they are physically unable to.
3) The sketches represent the fiction of it, then you come around the corner and see the object. “Hey, this is a real thing.” I like the connection between the fiction and the fact.

I will probably make new sketches if I do this, but above is an example of a sketch I did that is similar to what I’m thinking.

The book:

The Way Out Manual for Living will include the community’s major tenets, a list of The Way Out rites and rituals, images of fictional buildings and spaces (photographs of dioramas, watercolor sketches, and/or collage). This is a project I will start in the summer.

scientology_Triangle_1Another meaningful symbol brought to us by Scientology. (…)

I have been reading about Scientology, est, the Moonies, and other…hmmm…”fringe groups.” Floating has continued to be an influence of course. And then there is Wicker Man (the 1973 version). I just saw the final cut approved by director Robin Hardy. Good god, is there a more perfect movie?

wicker_man_christopher_lee Christopher Lee makes a second apperance on this blog.


Building People Boxes (for the living)

Here is the finished model-minus the doors-for The Way Out, my sensory-deprivation-inspired project. A recap: two tanks that a viewer/participant crawls into via front hatches. The shape of the tanks causes the participant into a supine position. Each tank will contain a contrasting sound/light environment. There is a tunnel connecting the two, acting as a “crossfade.” the_modelThe intention of the tanks is to activate the reptilian brain, to revive a relationship to senses that humans have lost, to realign faulty instincts. A tall order and I could completely fall on my face. There is a universality in the senses that I am interested in.

And now, some process photos.

The cart of raw materials-lumber and MDF (medium-density fiberboard).

materialsThe sides of the tank, clamped to preserve their flatness. When stored upright, they bend (we learned this the hard way).

the_panelsThe edges of the panels will be routered to soften the boxiness. This panel edge has been sanded, routered and filled with bondo for smoothness.


me_sandingand more sanding…(Greg, awesome project assistant). Toby has also been invaluable as my industrial design consultant and builder.

greg_sandingWhy so much sanding? Cause the goddamn table saw and router has been out of commission for too long.

temporarily_out_of_orderThis project has been doomed. We’ve had broken equipment, parts not arrive that have held up the process, bent panels, illness, cancelled flights, days the lab has closed due to weather. Someone told us we need to have a plan B and plan C. Greg responded, “We are on plan R).”

My biggest challenge is the lighting and sound from here on out. Tamara, our thesis writing advisor, reminded me that there is value in paring down,  to curate absence instead of presence, to lose the kaleidescopic overload lighting. I need feedback from my colleagues on this.

What am I doing “in the world?” Watching movies, going to the flotation tank (thanks to Gravity Spa for supporting my research), seeing exhibits.

Here’s what I’m after:


Abandoning the Spaceship

The Way Out, as two freestanding fiberglass spaceship “sensory activation” tanks with a tunnel between them, cannot happen on my budget for this project. Add to this my lack of experience with fiberglass and resin and I am setting myself up for failure.

I decided to focus on what is stuck in my head right now: isolation/flotation tanks. Here is a rough google sketch of what I have in mind.

sensory_activation_tanks_02Ideas I am keeping from the old plan:
-Same concept-two mental states of euphoria and dysphoria elicited separately with light and sound, and a ‘crossfade’ (the tunnel) between them

-The exterior will still be some sort of plastic shell and each tank will have its own entrance

-The tunnel is unlit and the participant crawls through it between the two spaces

-There will be a spectacle element (…low budget theater…) by having an usher at the exhibition opening-possibly in costume-to control the crowd, restrict time allowed in the tanks, etc.

-I will create some kind of book/pamphlet to accompany the exhibit. It will be either a mash-up of text and visuals about sensory activation or my original idea: a slim mock-self-help handbook for earthlings living on the moon that will act as a catalog of my work

Ideas I am discarding:
-The somewhat kitschy reference to a spaceship from Space 1999 (source for the shape of the outside). I’m filing this away for future use…

Bye bye Tabor's Ship
So Long Tabor’s Ship…

-Building the exterior myself-this is difficult to let go as I enjoy hands-on building. I contacted a fabricator for a quote, or I will buy pre-made tanks. This project has to be formally perfect on the outside. Did it matter that Carsten Holler didn’t build his Psycho Tank? Probably not.

-Communal experience-because it isn’t of interest to me right now and the states of euphoria and dysphoria are very individual and internal

-Large size-abandoning the communal experience means I can downsize the project

-The round tanks-if I am thinking about ergonomics, a round tank doesn’t make sense. I want people to lay on their backs to emphasize a sense of surrender to the environment. This connects to body-shaped tanks.

-Because I’m backing off on the building part of this I will be able to spend more time on lighting and sound design. I’m thinking of lining the euphoria tank with plexi so I can light the entire thing in a bright but diffused way. The dysphoria tank will remain black (or maybe red…?)

Here’s what I am looking at:
-theta rhythms in the brain (6–10 Hz): a state between wakefulness and sleep
An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
-Unusual uses of lighting in film, such as this scene from the Hammer Film “Dracula Has Risen From the Grave”:

christopher_lee-A major part of my research is going in the flotation tank at Gravity Spa. I am going three times a month and every time is utterly different. It is not entirely relaxing for me as I’ve heard it is for others, but is full of information. I am having lucid dreams every other night and previously had them once a year at most. If you’d like to read more on flotation check out their site. More to come on that…

Along with a model of this thing.

The Way Out

I am conducting research for my thesis, which is in three parts.
(1) THE SCULPTURE. A pair of euphoria/dysphoria pods (light & sound environments) that you can enter.
(2) THE BOOK. A satirical handbook for utopic living on the moon: The Way Out: A Manual for Lunar Living. It will include photographs (including some photos of previous works as spaces for inhabiting), text, and watercolor embellishment.
(3) THE RESEARCH. Sensory deprivation and the its use to induce bliss (as in isolation tanks at spas) and its use in torture (primarily coming out of Cold War hysteria).


podsMy starting point is a shape inspired by Taybor’s space ship from the Gerry Anderson produced Space:1999. The point at the top points to the out there. The viewer/participant would walk down into each space from a side door and there will be circular seating as below (imagine this stripped of its house-ness).

seatingThe path in my sketch symbolizes the fact I need a path but does not represent what it will look like (to be resolved). I will be working with google sketch up on some basic designs.The Euphoria/Dysphoria pods will be modular such as the shelter below, designed by Broissin Architects in Tepotzotlan, Mexico.

nano_houseLighting for the euphoria pod may be kaleidescopic; I am also entertaining the idea of a nearly blinding bright blue light with the floor a textured green (pointing to the blue sky and grass). Dysphoria will be pitch black. In each case there will be sound design. For dysphoria: sickeningly low frequencies that make your bowels itch. For euphoria, probably a combination of organ, flute, and bells, long tones, lots of layering and reverb.


As mentioned, The Way Out: A Manual for Lunar Living will be satirical–I am influenced by Walker Percy’s mock book Lost in the Cosmos, “the last self-help book.” I’ll be taking some ideas of The Whole Earth Catalog, The Modern Utopian (below), new age and self-help books and shooting them onto the moon (which will be more hospitable to humans as we destroy Earth).

the_modern_utopianFor an idea of what my book will look like (the mashup of image and text), click on the link to Nautofon 1. Nautofon is an artist collective based in Sweden. I am a fan of their publications which look at the ‘mist’ of the unknowable between science and the mystical.
NautofoncoverTHE RESEARCH
Sensory deprivation is a topic that interests me, and provides an easy framework to discuss euphoria/dysphoria as it has been used to induce both. I plan to look at the tragic life of John P. Zubek, a psychologist who conducted experiments in the 50s and 60s at the University of Manitoba (more to come). Going into a floatation tank myself is my primary research and I would like to build up to an overnight session.
My work was published in Make8elieve’s Issue #4: OCD. Check it out.


Colors, other than blue

the magic mountain colorsWe nearly always live through screens–a screened existence. And I sometimes think, when people say my work looks violent, that perhaps I have from time to time been able to clear away one or two of the veils or screens.     -Francis Bacon

I’m stuck on blue as the color of the piece/lighting but am considering other options. Another adjustment to my original plan: instead of creating a ‘skin’ covering the steel armature-which logistically I am having trouble with-I am thinking about creating a large transparent balloon that engulfs the whole piece. Remember the parachute game? Picture the steel towers as children and the parachute a whitish balloon skin around the towers. Sketch coming soon.
sad looking parachute