In my head this project began in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt in about
1984. The memory has become blunted by recollection, but the gist is
It was the end of the day. Somehow I had arrived just as the tombs were
closing. Almost all the tourists had departed. A few stragglers were
being rounded up. Desperate to see inside at least one of the tombs I
negotiated with a guide for a few minutes alone.
I remember the change of temperature as I descended the steeply
sloping passage down into the rock, and my eyes straining to adjust to
the fading light from the narrow entrance that barely illuminated the
unlit burial chamber. It was so silent that I could hear only my heart
beating and the rush of blood in my ears.
Deep inside the earth I was completely still; out of time; my senses
heightened. I imagined, in this place of absolute nothing, what would
happen if I were able to re-introduce sensations, one by one; a particular
quality of light; a temperature; an exotic scent; the sound of the waves;
a thread of music…
I wondered whether it would be possible in this way to evoke whole
landscapes, an entirely new sense of time and place, other moments. A
kind of sensory alchemy.
Since then, I have had some sort of a career as a set designer, creating
spaces that contain narratives, create atmospheres, solve problems.
Always (often) it has been my ambition to do more with less, take away
the noise and replace it with what seems most open and evocative
Hence the silent wind machine. Safe House is on one level designed to
work in this way. A haven surrounded by chaos in which the sensory
elements are stripped back and heightened. The feeling of being both
absolutely in the moment, and absolutely out of time.
Of course it may fail to achieve this, or work only for some people and
not for others. It is by nature an experiment. (I’m naturally resistant to
being told what to think and I hope that Safe House will be something
to explore and inhabit without being directed.) There is no right way of
encountering it, and no correct interpretation.
Safe House is free to the public and now open until 17 May. To learn more visit our website.