Kurt Hentschlager’s Trippy Installation Causes More Seizures at Pittsburgh Gallery

A trippy art installation by Chicago-based, Austria-born artist Kurt Hentschlager at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 943 Gallery has been closed by authorities after three visitors suffered seizure-like symptoms from the immersive experience. The exhibition, titled “Zee,” is meant to give those who experience it the sense of existing outside of time, which is achieved by “intense stroboscopic light in combination with thick artificial fog, resulting in a loss of spatial orientation,” according to the artist’s website. Art lovers were warned that they should not enter should they have photosensitive epilepsy, breathing or heart problems, migraines, claustrophobia or anxiety and they were also required to sign a waiver.

The project, which is presently part of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, debuted in 2008 and has since been shown internationally at the Museum of New and Old Art in Tasmania, Le Centquatre in Paris, and the Lu Xun Museum in China, among many other venues. Visitors have reported seizures in those iterations as well.

In an interview on the MONA Blog in July of this year, research curator Elizabeth Pearce asked Hentschlager if he was surprised by the amount of people having bad reactions to the project. “Yes. This is a very high rate,” he said. “I’m not quite sure what to think of it. Usually, the statistics for photosensitivity […] in the States is one in four thousand people. That’s just generally, but for ZEE it’s much more, one in five hundred or so. I’ve often contemplated whether I should stop showing it because I always dread that some day something really serious might happen. To have a seizure is very dramatic, but only a temporary event.”

Should authorities allow the exhibition to reopen it is scheduled to be on view until October 27.

— Ashton Cooper

(Photo: Kurt Hentschlager)