Everything changes. All around us things both man-made and natural are constantly shifting. But in certain events, from the impassioned act of war to the scientific process of reaction, change can take on a more sinister tone. In this exhibition, visitors will experience this treacherous tension as they go on an immersive journey through a bunker in the midst of a war and a beaker in which a chemical reaction is occurring.
The two experiences provide a multiplicity of ways in which visitors can come to understand the idea behind the exhibition through their own experiences, connotations, and thought processes. While the two ideas are linked through the fact that science has long provided the weapons drawn in wars, they primarily act as parallel experiences that exemplify a dangerous changeability in their own way.
The exterior of the exhibition is intended to instill in the visitor a sense of trepidation before they even enter the space and set them on the path to recognizing the overarching theme. It also serves to establish the exhibition’s first concept, war.
The visitor is walking across a green lawn and sees a backyard bunker set into the ground, it’s weighty steel door a stark contrast to the otherwise commonplace lawn around them. These bunkers, built en masse during the Cold War years due to the ever present threat of nuclear bombing, are a familiar symbol of the tension and constant danger that characterized the era. The door itself is stamped with a date of manufacturing of 1962, the height of the Cold War, to further emphasize this connotation.
Suddenly, an air raid siren blares in the distance. As an immediately recognizable warning sign, this noise establishes an atmosphere of danger. Unsure of what might be coming, the visitor is propelled to seek shelter. The bunker in front of them seems to provide the only potential escape from the coming doom, and they enter through the steel door into the exhibition.
Tick Tock, Tick Tock
The second phase of the exhibition, designed to resemble a bunker, uses war as its main experiential theme in order to capitalize on the treacherous, edge-of-a-knife feeling that global conflict both past and present evokes.
The visitor climbs down a metal ladder through a concrete walled tunnel. They hear the faint ticking of a clock, which grows louder and louder as they descend. Already on edge from the entry experience, they will be nervous and suspicious of what might lie ahead.
At the bottom of the ladder they turn around and see a narrow, low-ceilinged hallway lit only by dim, fizzing caged construction lights mounted to the ceiling. Set into the walls on either side of the passage are TVs from different eras. A TV from the 1960’s fizzles on in a burst of static and begins to play a speech by President Kennedy on the Cuban Missile Crisis. The TV fades out and further down the wall another from the 1990’s begins to play news coverage of the Gulf War, beckoning the visitor along the passage. As it plays, another TV turns on, playing battle footage from the Vietnam War. Gradually more TV’s begin to turn on and the sounds and images of war and tenuous global politics begin to overwhelm the visitor, the recognizable images creating a powerful emotional recollection for many.
As they look ahead they see a large steel bunker door. The clock ticking, continued through the passage, grows louder and more rapid, and above the door a doomsday clock inches closer and closer to midnight. The bunker door itself remains locked as the clock moves ever closer to midnight. Just as it is about to strike twelve, the lights in the hall flash red and the door swings open, creating an audible puff of air as the seal is broken.
This phase shifts to a more abstract representation of the concept by mimicking experientially the rapidly active nature of a chemical reaction. In presenting a less emotionally-driven illustration of the main theme, this section provides a series of connotations that allow those who might not have connected with the previous section to experience the same sense of dangerous changeability. Through the introduction of a fresh take on the concept it also serves to realign those who may have gotten off track of the intended concept in the first section with the central idea.
The visitor steps through the bunker door and finds they are in a completely different and unexpected environment. The room is round, and the walls and floor are a digital screen showing the inside of an empty beaker. The high, black ceiling of the room gives the visitor the feeling of being inside the beaker. The door disappears behind them, becoming flush with the wall and part of the screen as it closes.
The show begins on the screens. Colored chemicals begin to pour down the walls as if they are being dumped into the beaker, making the visitor nervous about what is going to happen all around them. The chemicals rush to fill up the beaker, and the floor under the visitor’s feet begins to digitally bubble, smoke, and spark. Despite only being a digital image, these familiar dangerous reactions will cause the visitor to physically move around in surprise. Furthering this effect are sound effects of bubbling and popping liquids, the building hiss of a teakettle, and rockets about to launch. Puffs of air are also shot out from the walls at random intervals to give the digital scene a more tangible feel. Beyond illustrating an example of dangerous change, this erratic show allows the visitor to physically experience the danger of rapid fluctuation and unpredictability.
As the chemicals in the beaker continue to react, a door opposite the entrance swings out from the wall and the visitor is able to exit.
The final phase of the exhibition deliberately lacks a definitive conclusion in order to maintain the state of instability present throughout the other sections and allow visitors to walk away from it with the concept still present to them.
As the visitor steps out of the door they are on a similar grassy lawn on the other side of a hill from where they began. Out of sight, a clamoring of voices and footsteps begins to become audible from the other side of the hill. It grows louder and closer, and the visitor hurries off away from the exhibition, fearful of what might become of the precarious situation beyond the hill.