Ozeanisches Gefühl, 2019

Photos by Aleks Slota

3D-wave-simulation video

Ozeanisches Gefühl (oceanic feeling), 2018 – 2019

Single-channel HD video with sound 00:10:00 (loop), infrared heater, wind machines, and Arduino

We are caught in the sea, swept and trapped in an endless vortex of what is unknown. Rogue waves (also known as monster waves or freak waves) are large, unexpected, and suddenly-appearing surface waves that can be extremely dangerous, even for large ships such as ocean liners. They present a considerable danger for several reasons: they are rare, unpredictable, and can crash down with tremendous force. For a long time, rogue waves were considered to be sea monsters of maritime tales, suddenly burrowing down into the ocean belly, and then like the in- and exhale of a breath, towering up to scrape the sky before collapsing onto the unfortunate ships nearby. Since the advent of satellite technology, numerous rogue waves have been documented. There are many studies about rogue waves: however, the exact dynamics of their formation remains unclear. This is an important question to answer, because we will only be able to foresee rogue waves when we understand their causes.

In fact, the correct prediction of future events is a crucial scientific domain, which has preoccupied human societies throughout millenia. Not only are rogue waves or observations of the outside world a major scientific endeavor, but the prediction of internal events, such as affective states, also holds major promise. There are many reports about people being overwhelmed by sudden waves of anxiety or fear. In the majority of cases, a grave, immediate stressor or threat to life is inapparent. A sea monster of maritime tales would hardly pose a threat in reality, but the experience of fear and anxiety definitely can. The Italian philosopher Seneca writes in his book On the Shortness of Life, “We act like mortals in all that we fear, and act like immortals in all that we desire”. We become powerless before fear and anxiety.

In a 1930s study conducted by Heinrich Klüver and Paul C. Bucy, the amygdala, a part of the limbic system in the brain which senses and produces the experience of fear, was removed from the brains of monkeys. After the procedure, the monkeys did not respond appropriately to their needs and could no longer function as members of a group. Although fearless, they were useless. In fact, fear is a vital function of any living being. It is crucial to not only experience fear but also to understand its mechanics, so that it is not only seen as a disruptive force but also a necessary element of complex living organisms.

In this project, I attempt to create a space where the audience can experience overwhelming cognitive and physical aspects of fear. This work consists of a video projection, poem narration “Waves of Fear”, and simultaneous manipulation of room temperature. The video is a careful 3D-reconstruction of oceanic waves, with increasing frequency of appearing rogue waves. The poem explores my own experiences with fear, in which others may see a reflection of themselves. The room temperature is manipulated in sync with the video projection and narration. For this piece, I worked with a marine engineer in order to better understand rogue waves and recreate realistic wave-shapes and patterns. I also cooperated with a psychologist and a neurologist to clearly grasp the mental and physical responses to the experience of fear. This installation will create a surrealistic atmosphere and a topology of tachypsychia.