Fear in the black box

2011.02.04. 14:47


In contemporary mass media, fear has a growing tangible presence. But how can we distinguish between fears that are real, and those deliberately generated by the media? Fear is a vital basic feeling. Every human being is able to feel fear. However, what we fear also has to be learnt, because social fear is also conditioned by society.

The twentieth century is considered to be the 'century of fear'. The seemingly uninterrupted sequence of radical upheaval and catastrophe in the first half of the century opened people's eyes to their potential for self-destruction. In consequence, a feeling of imminent menace persisted: fear of war, fear of economic crisis, fear of environmental destruction, fear of new technologies, fear of terrorism, and fear of fundamental changes in society in general.  The twenty-first century also began with a series of collective fear scenarios, from the 'millennium bug' (the anticipated collapse of all computer systems), to 9/11, climate change, and avian flu through to the present financial crisis. Fear seems to be a permanent feature of public life. Do we need fear? Does it not even perhaps serve as a filler in our society?

Félelem a fekete dobozban
Félelem a fekete dobozban

Adam Curtis, the influential British documentary filmmaker, even claims that in politics a fundamental shift has taken place that instrumentalizes fear. Politicians of our times do not offer a vision of a better future to the voters anymore, but instead promise to protect us from the worst imaginable threats and nightmares. This notion of fear as a powerful tool within political discourse can undermine the legacy of rational thought, the main basis for decision-making. (The witch-hunt after the founder of the Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is just one current example of such a strategy of the political elite.)

This selection will present current and historical films from different genres from feature film, documentary and experimental film, to ephemeral films like adverts or propaganda. The show will contain subgroups guided by thematic links between them investigating macro-sociological fears (played out in media, economics and wars) to micro-sociological fears (triggered by family, gender, psyche), and elaborate on the interwovenness of social and individual fears.

In migrating a tight selection of experimental films and videos screened at Werkleitz Festival 2010 into the exhibition space, Fear in the black box also seeks to reflect on the existing discourse on the colonialization of the white cube by "cinema".

The space of the black box - a metaphor for an archive of our collective fears - is dark but not sinister. It invites the audience to take a closer look, to analyze our contemporary condition, to revisit our social, political and existential fears without intending to generate them, and experience a different form of perception.

The exhibition is open until 27 February at Trafó - House of Contemporary Arts (Budapest, District 9, Liliom utca 41.).