Birds of worry and fear fly above your head, prevent them from nesting in your hair

foto@Kaja Brezocnik

The project takes its title from the Chinese proverb, ‘That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.’ As the project’s basic premise, it suggests one’s defence against the fears one cannot escape. Time and again, the fears driven by wars and technological, healthcare, climate, financial and migration crises are exploited by extreme political and technological demagogues amassing power and capital by taking advantage of people’s worries.

Today’s fear of climate catastrophe, artificial intelligence, and other technologies is not dissimilar to the fear of nuclear war that permeated the second half of the 20th century. Yet, there is a striking difference in how fear used to impact the perception of the future in the past and how it does today. If the bright colours and shapes of the atomic age promised a utopian future that, even 75 years on, still looks futuristic, nowadays, the only kind of future we seem to be able to imagine is dystopian. In the atomic era, the primary source of information was television, whereas today, smartphones have taken over with social media and other apps, feeding unreliable personalised content to narcissistic, self-centred individuals unable to rise to the challenges of today. Let alone the future.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors find themselves in front of an “image” with several frames in vivid hallucinatory colours implying the atomic age. At the centre of the “image” is a large screen with a camera, which detects human presence and serves as the point of immersion into a virtual world of filters and extended reality. The visitor sees themselves in a parallel virtual environment with an absurd object on their head that seems to protect them from their fears. The gallery is also filled with real objects, additional triggers to enter the augmented reality, which spill into the space through visitors’ smartphones. Benches made of insulation materials and placed in front of the “image” with the photo wallpaper, styrofoam frames and the virtual control centre in the middle invite visitors to participate. The act of sharing one’s fears and posting notes on the “image” completes the experience, allowing the collection of fears to grow until the exhibition is on to provide a changing insight into visitors’ fears.