Exhibition Design, Blog, User Research, Information Graphics, Illustration
theFearbox is an independent project developed and expanded during my senior year at Carnegie Mellon University.
The wooden box traveled to different public locations around the Pittsburgh area. Instructions displayed with the project prompted viewers to face their fears by writing them down, throwing them in the box and releasing the fear through this act. Paper and pens were set up for this purpose. Between five Pittsburgh locations and an online blog over 500 responses were collected. The fears were categorized and analyzed to understand change based on location. In addition, academic research into how disciplines such as history, sociology, psychology, philosophy and biology discuss fear was included.
A funny thing happens when you ask a person to calmly consider their fears. Instead of engaging our primal instincts, we think rationally and fully consider our fears – for the first time for many. In this moment, we're able to question why that fear, why it drives us, and how we can choose to control the fear, or let the fear control us.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
The first off campus location took the box to the main branch of Pittsburgh's public library system. It was the first encounter with young children and offered a glimpse into how fear grows and changes with us.
Put up during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the box fit seamlessly into a day of reflection and repentance at this local synagogue.
A sample of the collected fears
While trying to remain an unbiased observer, I found the project impacted me personally. As I open, documented and analyzed each fear, at first I felt my own anxieties build. There is much research suggesting that fear is contagious – we express our fears and others who may not have considered these fears develop them as well. However, as I dove deeper, I moved past internally collecting fears and found a sense of calm and reassurance in holding the most private fears of random strangers. For me, three main ideas arose from the project.
1 - Everyone feels fear.
Fear is arguably the most basic human emotion. Everyone feels it. But was also forget that everyone else feels it. Or that everyone in history has always felt it.
2 - Fear hasn't changed.
We're still afraid of the same basic things our ancestors were afraid of - from the physical like spiders and snakes, to the emotional like death and sorrow. The fear that has driven history is the same that continues to drive us.
3 - Hiding our fears doesn't rid us of them.
In American culture, we've come to view fear as evil. We whisper our fears like secrets, hoping to keep them from others and from ourselves. And yet we value bravery and courage without understanding that courage cannot exist without first feeling fear.
In January 2012 I received full funding from Carnegie Mellon University to present the project and my research at the Hawaii International Conference on Arts and the Humanities in Honolulu.
In March 2012, The American Jewish Museum hosted a month long exhibit that displayed the box, collected data, in depth research and the physical fears that were submitted. I arranged, designed and constructed the entire exhibit and marketing.
The exhibit remained true to the participative nature of theFearbox project by allowing viewers to physically add to the show. They could submit their own fear in the box, open an old fear and pin it to the wall or write their own response to fear. A well designed hierarchy organized the information.
theFearbox exhibit took full advantage of the unique space provided by the American Jewish Museum.
The niche walls, created by the columns, function to break the exhibit into four main sections - Why We Fear, What We Fear, How We Fear and Overcoming Fear. Each section included a main body of text, subtext on a more specific topic, illustrations of famous persons and their quotes on fear and actual fears.
The columns act as interactive stations that encourage participation and a physical connection with the exhibit.
As time progressed, the exhibit expanded with contributions from viewers, encouraging them to revisit the project and discuss it with others. The Community Center location means hundreds of individuals passed through the space daily. The exhibit was designed with this in mind, to create a full experience for the community rather than simply a display of finding. It allows interaction and understanding on a more personal level than a typical art gallery.
Wall of Fears
Guests were encouraged to experience opening someone else's fear, and adding it to the exhibit.