Scenario House, Crissie Cotter Gallery, 2006
In his book Culture of Fear (2005) Frank Furedi makes the point that ‘the war on terror’ has the peculiar attribute of staying “permanently” suspended in the possibility of becoming. Here the ‘war’ has an indefinable enemy, one which is none-the-less seen as still ever potent with the ability to threaten our very (everyday) existence. Our securities are at risk and require special attention.
Scenario Room is an installation incorporating sound and video footage that investigates the state of permanent alert in a post 9/11 world. The conception for the work developed out of a news item broadcast by ABC Radio National (2005) on a distinctly American facility, a mountain resort hotel with restaurant and five star lodge rooms. This was combined with a ‘state-of-the-art’ gun club that offered sophisticated anti-terrorist training. In its brochure, the Valhalla Shooting Club offered gun-handling skills in an effort to prepare its members against the threat of possible homeland invasion.
The title ‘scenario house’ comes directly from one of the central live simulation rooms offered at the Valhalla Shooting Club. The participant enters a simulated home. The term scenario in the context of my installation is linked to scenario as simulation or perhaps a place to act or rehearse as if it was real. Inevitably this leads to references to Baudrillard’s work on simulation and synthetic reality.
The work I am building then is an exploration of violence through the manifestation of post 9/11 vengeance scenarios within such facilities as the Valhalla Shooting Club. The borders distinguishing gaming violence, television violence and revenge scenarios are increasingly indefinable.
As well, any discussion of fear and paranoia is closely associated with the thesis of a ‘culture of fear’. Fear and anxiety predominate in contemporary public discourse – and inevitably reflect in recent events such as the severity of the Israeli response to Hezbollah attacks. (Many Israelis supported the initial response to Hezbollah but not the way the conflict developed). Social paranoia is a twenty first century phenomena with potentially harmful global implications. Some such as Noam Chomsky see fear as been artificially created as a means of social control with the aid of mass media.
Scenario House offers a dual viewing perspective where the participant can either enter via the doorway or choose to peer into the space through two windows at the end of the room. These windows also double as shooter hatches. A person enters via the door at the side, hearing a gunshot audio track, finding themselves in a room containing a lounge setting and walls wallpapered in the repetitive yet discrete motif of gun targets. The person at the window may imagine themselves as willing participants in a gunclub activity. They see through a window into a domestic living room which incorporates elements of an indoor shooting facility. Targets are visible at the end of the space and the sound of gunshots creates a more immersive effect within this simulated environment.
The sound design for Scenario House is in two parts: a low level, soundtrack from the television monitor and the audio component of a gun shot sound.
The video component is a 1’30” film loop viewed on the television monitor mounted in the wall. It is a non-narrative piece using original footage from the outer western suburbs of Sydney. The semi-documentary style is used to construct an effect reminiscent of television news reportage. It comes at a time when there is an expectation that news reportage – and its associate technologies – will satisfy the need for visual immediacy, most notably through ‘breaking news’ stories.