Is It Safe, In Your Head

In the heart of the city-park of Kalmar lies Kalmar konstmuseum, a black cube surrounded by green foliage. In this environment, outside of the black cube that is the museum, artist Gustav Hellberg will carried out a public space experiment that started at the 7th of May at 13:00 – 17:00 . The title of the experiment is ”In Your Head”.

In Your Head
By: Gustav Hellberg.

A door stands ajar. Through the door chink, a ray of light pushes itself through. From the space behind the door the voice of a man repeatedly asks, in slight german accent:

“Is it safe?”

Click here to see a three D rendering and explanation of the installation.

Material: Audio-system with speakers, luminous tube, steel-door, wood, usb memory-stick with an MP3 audio-file.

Measurement: Variable

The installation will be placed close to one of Kalmar konstmuseums entrances. A segment of the building´s characteristic façade has been displaced half a metre out from the wall. In the middle of the segment there´s a door, standing slightly ajar. It is fixated in position. Beyond the door an arched wall has been installed. Placed behind the door luminous tubes will indirectly cast an even bright light on the arched wall. There´ll be no possibility to discern the size of the space, to discern any details or shadows what so ever. In this space there´ll be placed a couple of hidden speakers, who´ll repeatedly play an MP3 audio-file that is taken from the movie Marathon Man, based on a novel with the same title by William Golding. The audio-file is taken from a scene in the movie where actor Laurence Olivier with a calm, soft voice asks Dustin Hoffman:
“Is it safe?”
In this specific scene Hoffman is suffering dental torture, carried out by Olivier.

In the installation the whole torture-scene is used. The sound, however, is edited so that Hoffmans reply to the question if it is safe is removed, as well as his screams of pain. Only Laurence Oliviers calm, soft voice is heard.

The artist Gustav Hellberg will with his installation put shape and a form to a complex of problems relating to modern society; a society which have developed and confined itself to a certain set of concepts regarding safety and security.
This set of concepts views safety and security as the absence of its opposites, namely danger and insecurity. As such there is in the socially active concept of security and safety a hindering focus on the absence of the “bad”, not the presence of the “good”; which is a missed opportunity to define the “good” as in itself carrying actual, positive value.
The danger and insecurity is something we want to be absent in our lives, and to reach this goal we erect protective walls around ourselves; we station guards outside our doors.

These, then, our walls and our guards, come to function as a defining picture of safety and security. Actual treats to our security and safety get mixed up with the fear of, or being subject to, potential treats. We feed upon the fear of insecurity and danger and thus give rise to a negative feedback-loop which results in even more fear. Together we create a climate of distance. The unknown has come to connote danger, a connotation that has given rise to intolerance, ignorance and protectionism that tends to create a sense of danger where there is none.

The underlying question carrying all of this up, a question that needs to be properly answered and treated is:
What is it that we are afraid of?

Gustav Hellberg´s installation is part of an exhibition at Kalmar konstmuseum entitled “The Return of the Loser”, which lasts until the 4th of September, 2011.

The installation is part of project Art Line and is part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund).

Curator: Martin Schibli.

References: Marathon Man, 1976.


A safe space,

or a non-spacious threat.

Föregående / Nästa