Master of Fear

The MASTER OF FEAR is a performance based project developed during my studies at the Royal College of Art. It incorporates three designed devices which address our innate need for fear as a survival mechanism. Freud's theory of Thanatos talks of the life instinct needing to be balanced by the death instinct as a way of relieving stress and tension from life. Through the style of a traveling show I propose a unique fear-seeking experience. Through being fastened into 3 varying FEAR MACHINES you experience a stress therapy by sobering your mind through the thrill of a hyper-real sensation. A glimpse of the ultimate end in a frenzy of fear. An intensely 'real' sensation!

Throughout history people have relished the obscene or unusual either through witnessing public executions, or indulging in 'forbidden' acts of alternative morals. Circus performances became a spectacle of death defying acts, or freak shows provided a glimpse or 'proof' of a mystical or fantasy 'other' world. In the 1860's phantasmagoria shows of horror and mysticism catered for the sensation-seeker. Many of the showmen were a combination of scientists and magicians, many of them stressing that the effects that they produced, no matter how eerily convincing, were in fact the result of ingenious equipment and skill.

The MASTER OF FEAR performance transports a conceptual idea about realism and life confirming experience into something that can be physically understood. For example performances by fluxus in the 1960's and artists such as Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys and Paul McCarthy found it more meaningful to physically express their ideas. Penn and Teller magic shows bring the surreal into peoples imaginations, roller coasters let you surrender your fate to engineering and horror movies capture your fantasy fears. All these types of performances are a way of physically understanding a conceptual idea through a hyper or seemingly more than real experience. Shows and films that make their audiences gasp or scream are a kind of therapy that allow us to live through a traumatic experience without the injury, we feel we have witnessed something or survived the experience. After this sobering experience we feel 'wired' we have a heightened sense of our self and surroundings due to bursts of adrenaline being pumped through our body, we feel a grounding life confirming release of stress and fear.

People indulge in thrill-seeking devices as a release and challenge to their everyday 'safe' environment. Stress and anxiety are conditions of modern society, which is why many seek and benefit from hyper-real experiences.



Your brain's amygdale recognizes the clear and present danger, as you are strapped into the machine. Your heart begins to beat wildly (up to three times faster), your blood pressure increases, your mouth becomes uncomfortably dry and you have an instinctual urge to avoid what is about to happen. You experience fear, and the perception of risk has sent your system into producing a massive surge of adrenaline, noradrenalin and growth hormone. In milliseconds the brain's hypothalamus begins to give out corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), which triggers the brain's pituitary gland to pump out adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), which in turn persuades the adrenal glands near your kidneys to start producing cortisol. The Master fastens the straps around you and moves over to his mystery case. You are breathing much faster now and blood surges around your body, draining away from unimportant areas like your stomach into your muscles, giving you "butterflies". The master reaches into the case and the machine powers up. Adrenaline, noradrenalin, growth hormone and cortisol continue to be released into your blood as your pupils dilate allowing you to perceive movement around you more clearly, you can see into the shadows and darkness. The machine gets closer as your immune system gears up to deal with any potential injuries, emergency reserves of energy source glucose are released in order to prepare for intense bursts of muscular activity. In the blink of an eye your mind and body have geared up to act in response to the perceived risk, the so-called 'fight or flight' response. The master of fear plunges the machine into your body with a defining roar. Your body struggles to set itself free as it glimpses the ultimate end. The most 'real' experience you can remember……


Whitechapel Gallery performance night, Wormhole Saloon IV

Master of Fear Machines