ENTER THE WIND INSTALLATION
A short film plays within the White Sensory Cube, a one-person viewing booth for art galleries and museums.
ENTER THE WIND. The Enter the Wind installation is concerned with heightening the multi-sensory response to image and sound using an individual screening space, a cinema-for-one. An experimental film that plays within the installation, Enter the Wind, takes the perspective of a dreaming Absáalooke poet laureate, Henry Real Bird, while a cold wind blows across the landscape transforming the cultural, playing on the fragility of humanity. It is an intercultural exploration of affect, employing haptic visuality and aurality to convey experience across cultures. The film resonates with spectators via its sensory approach; however, in a typical theatrical screening the crowd diverts our full sensory attention, as we perceive the reactions, movements, sounds, and shapes of other viewers.
To diminish this effect and to reach spectators at a heightened sensory capacity, I implemented a controlled screening space, the White Sensory Cube. This was a dark, sound-deadening booth designed for one person, allowing for a secluded viewing experience, where the viewer was no longer entangled in the perception of others. The booth is tall and painted white externally (84”x42”x36”), painted black internally, with dark gray curtains at the entrance, separating it from the larger gallery space. The white color of the Sensory Cube echoes the white cube gallery space as “a space of performance”, and places the viewer inside the object. The black paint on the inside represents what is known as a black cube, a space giving special consideration to digital media art.
Inside the installation, I display the short film on a 36-inch monitor on a stand with headphones. Just above the viewer’s head is a small fan blowing a slight breeze on the viewer, to attain the sense of a chill down the back, the physical touch of the wind. In a corner near the fan, I place fresh sage so that the smell wafts over the viewer while they stand in the booth. The very presence of sage in Enter the Wind has specific cultural significance for the Absaálooke, as it is used in ceremonial traditions. Perhaps for other spectators who do not have such traditions, the olfactory cue connects to the landscape in a way that dissociates the Absaálooke cultural context. In fact, our associations with olfaction are individual and context-dependent due to our varying experiences of certain smells. By incorporating the smell of sage in the Sensory Cube, I emphasize incongruent cultural memories and meanings attributed to the natural environment, while simultaneously expressing the importance of the natural landscape to cultural tradition.
Within the booth, the film generated an intensified corporeal response, with many viewers describing a haunting feeling, often accompanied by a sharp chill and goose bumps on the skin. Others suggested they “felt” the wind. Viewers who watched the film without the booth have never reported such strong sensations. The overt physical response to the film that viewers report seems to imply their senses are stimulated to a degree rendered inaccessible in the absence of the booth. As such, this screening space appears to be an integral element in heightening the spectator’s sensory capacity, challenging audiences to acutely engage with the boundaries of the screen.
Enter the Wind won two awards at the 2014 University Film and Video Association conference and was nominated for Best Experimental Film at the Wimbledon International Short Film Festival.