OUR DARKEST SPACES – Media Installation Project
By: Nissmah Roshdy, Abla Mohamed, Roba Mostafa
Course: Media Installation, Spring 2012


The concept revolves around a white room, covered with paper from all its dimensions. The subjects enter the room; experience some agony while hearing sounds that invoke pain, darkness and bad memories. They are triggered to write on the walls of the room their worst experience or their darkest secrets. By this they unleash their negative energy as well as turn the room into a black space when they’re done.



25th-22nd April - Concept developing

1st-8th May - Planning the scenario

12th -19th May – Calculating material and expenses

25th – 31st May – Buying materials

2nd – 5th May – Building the installation


Each person has a dark space inside them where they keep the worst of their memories, their worst sins, their darkest secrets, their worst fears and the things and the people they despise the most. Sometimes keeping all this darkness contained and piled up, generates a lot of negative energy that we either tend to overlook and forget about, or spend a great deal of time trying to get over them.

This installation should be a door for a space where anyone can unleash all the negative energy they burry inside of them, to open up their hearts and let go of what bothers them the most on the walls of room that should be transformed from a serene white space, into a black one that contains all the darkness people have. While walking out one should get a feeling of release and relief as they leave behind all their darkness inside.


The idea of this installation was inspired from the action that people usually take when they are frustrated, within lectures for example, they write, scribble or draw anything on a piece of paper. It has been affective to release negative energy on such a small scale and from there we decided to do it on a big scale.

originally the concept was to have the room completely white and to allow certain amount of people inside the room and not to allow them out until the room becomes completely black, however the concept has changed according to many aspects that we have faced and experienced doing the installation, also based on the feedback we had.


A similar installation that had the bases of a completely white room was held by Yayoi Kusama in Australia, however it held a completely different concept dealing with children. http://www.tokyomango.com/tokyo_mango/2012/01/yayoi-kusamas-latest-obliteration-room.html

and this was the out come.


We had a long dilemma in finding a suitable room for the installation, as we needed a space that is not too big, as not to be time-consuming to blacken its walls with text. However, at the same time we needed it to be big enough to have room for at least 8 people. After measuring the dimensions of one of the normal seminar rooms in Applied Arts (GD studio), we realized that the choice of a big room will not just be time consuming in executing the concept, but will also torture us in the expenses (buying more than a 100 sheets of paper). At that point, the thought of making a one-person installation came to our minds, where one subject would be alone in a booth-like room. Its advantages were:

  • Personal space to right their worst experiences
  • Listening to the agonizing sounds through earphones (more provocative)
  • Not too noisy and personal.

However the disadvantages were more:

  • Problems with the ventilation and light
  • Feeling of a closed constricted space is uncomfortable
  • Difficulty in writing everywhere in the booth,
  • The subject won’t get trigged by the other subjects’ eagerness to write as

After considering all the possibilities available we were able to settle on the half; a medium sized room that can fit up to ten people. The room C3-105, which was used previously as small stationery and a storage room, was our final choice. However it did not come with zero difficulty, because we still had to go through procedures not just to get permission to acquire it, but also to empty it from incredibly heavy objects. Our next step after that was to take precise measurements of the room to buy the paper. After we did we went to a paper market in ‘Ataba and Mosky’ and bought 100 A0 sheets of paper, thankfully with an incredibly low price.


After acquiring the room, we went through 6 different processes


Over the span of four days, with 100 sheets and a stack of double-face tape, we stuck the paper on the walls, starting with the sides and finishing with the floor. We divided the roles to be more productive Nissmah: Sticking double-face tape on sheets, and cutting paper Abla & Roba: Sticking the sheets on the walls carefully


It was important that the sound piece would aid the experience of the installation. We intended to create this sound piece especially to trigger negative feeling or memories in the subjects, or at least give them a sense of what they’re supposed to feel. Accordingly, we agreed the piece could contain 3 elements: Angry Metal music, sadly tormenting soundtracks, and voiceovers of quotes, lines and conversation from different films. We also used a panning effect in the editing to have a spatial design for the sound.


Music used: Perfect Sense OST - "Something Under Her Skin" by Max Ritcher

                 Harry Potter OST - "Snape and Lilly" by Alexandre Desplat
                 Atonement OST - "Elegy for Dunkirk" by Dario Marianelli
                 A Beautiful Mind OST - "Alicia Discovers Nash's Dark World" by James Horner

                  "Confrontation" by Otep
                  "Hypocrites" by Korn
                  "Bleeding Mascara" by Atreyu


After obtaining the speakers we faced an unexpected problem _they were black, which can basically ruin the white serene feeling of the room. Thus, using foam boards we created boxes shaped like little houses with doors, which we had cut out to avoid covering the gasket of the speaker


We used different materials to allow the subjects to have different ways to express their thoughts. Apart from black markers and felt pens, we used black graffiti spray, small paint cups, writing ink and mini-rollers or brushes to dip them in the paint. We also added another surprising tool _a black shoe polisher. At first, there was a suggestion to hang the pens from the walls with transparent thread. However while sticking the paper we preferred to keep the white scene undistorted by anything. So we ended up creating a shelf-like container in the boxes that covered the speakers.


We all agreed that the experience of the installation needed to be fully recorded, so we wanted to set up a camera on the top right corner of the room and connect it with a screen or a projector outside, and we had several problems in executing this. Even though we had a projector, we decided not to use it as we felt like the installation did not deserve that much of a show, and of course because there was no space to project the video. So we decided to use a screen, however the problem was that the camera we had (Sony Handycam) can only stream on a screen with the AV television plugs, which we couldn’t obtain. At that point we were advised to buy a webcam; the normal solution for such a situation, but the odds came in and we were unable to buy a webcam that is compatible with our MacBook laptops. And even though we were able to get a presentable PC laptop, the windows version was not compatible with the camera’s software! So basically the screening idea was completely discarded, and we used the Sony Handycam to just record the video.


Unlike all other installations, ours cannot be completed without subjects; they are literally a part of the design itself. So we had to invite people before the day of the installation to come and ‘unleash their negative energy’, and more importantly we had to make sure that they would attend. Accordingly, we started a Facebook event and designed a poster and a flyer to print and distribute.

After the installation was built, we gathered a number of people and led them inside. Surprisingly the room fit more than 10 subjects. Between 11:45am till 3:30pm subjects entered the room, some resided in the room unleashing all the words they have, some came and returned with some of their friends; a plus point we hadn’t foreseen. At times the room contained 2 or 3 subjects, other times it was crowded. We can’t tell how many people wrote on our installation walls, or from which faculties or semesters; it was quite a hot spot in the GUC that day that plenty of students and professors, who have no idea what Media Installation is, felt urged to participate in. The installation ended successfully on Monday 12:30, after its walls were filled with various and numerous words and scribbles, that there was no room to insert a pen anymore.


Once the installation was launched, and the subjects entered the room, an interesting unplanned thing happened. Instead of listening to the agonizing sound piece and getting triggered by it, the subjects pick up the tools right after gazing around in awe at the whiteness of the room, and started to write and scribble. At first it felt more like everyone was glad to have a space to express their thoughts generally, as what seemed to be the more effective stimulus was the excitement liberated in the atmosphere not the painful sound or the urge to unleash negative feelings. However when subjects started to vary and decrease in number, they had a better chance to listen to the sound and got a better sense of the true purpose of the installation.


The feedback we had was mainly positive, people enjoyed the installation and released some of their negative energy; however there were some suggestions concerning the sound piece and the inconsistency of its genre as some found the supposedly painful music not painful. It was noticeable how people reacted differently when they were left alone in the installation as they tended to become more personal and release their insides more than those who entered the installation when the room was full. Also people who were not instructed and informed about what to do tended to write their names or just draw. Most of the feedback was positive, people were very eager to try the installation more than once, or re-visit frequently to see how much it is filled. Subjects loved the idea and its simplicity. It is necessary to mention that the timing also of the installation was very appropriate, as student were already stressed from exams and needed to ‘unleash’ some of their frustrations.

There was a common preference for the graffiti spray even though there was a common complain about its smell. In fact, subjects ironically suggested some of our disregarded early ideas, like using earphones for the sound or making it a one-person installation so that they can connect more to the sound and write more personal words. They also made a suggestion that we found heart breaking, that the installation should be left in the room or should be made once more. Of course having promised to deliver the room back to the department and having built the installation with immense difficulty, we could not take the suggestion into consideration.


We had several limitations, some of which we couldn’t control and some was due to miscalculations.


The first limitation we saw was that after we stuck the paper, it began to slack the next day, either because of the temperature or because the tape wasn’t good enough. So it wasn’t neatly flat and plain with some parts stuck out and shadows in between. Even though when we removed the paper at the end, the tape left a very disturbing sticky remains on the wall, as if it was actually stuck really tight.


The time factor was the cause for some problems as well. We had to acquire a ladder early enough and have the time to stick paper on the celling, and since we acquired it very late it was not possible to have the 6 faces of the white cube and we settled with 5.


Time also influenced our design for the boxes, as they were not rigid enough and so amidst the crowd inside the room, the boxes were torn apart and pens were on the floor. Halfway through the installation, we found ourselves in a very unfortunate situation. Subjects were passing by, attracted to the room and very eager to participate BUT the writing tools had run out, which was a huge pity. HOWEVER we were able to bring more writing tools before the last session.


Despite all fuss we went through to settle on how we will set up the camera, after we did, it only recorded about 20 minutes then dropped, luckily not on the floor. However before it disappointed us, it captured very interesting reactions and moments inside the room.

One of the situations imposed on us, was having to explain our concept to almost every subject before entering. We could not leave them to experience the installation freely and interpret it as they wish; we felt forced to answer their fleeting not-so-curious inquiries to urge them to go inside, on the count of, we needed as many scribbles as we can to blacken the whole room. And so by this we became part of the installation, which we had to be present around constantly to explain it to subjects.


Abla: My personal opinion is that the installation has reached its purpose when there was only one subject and someone present inside the room guiding them what to do and pushing the negative energy out of them. Also to make the room sound proofed as to allow people to produce their own sounds or listen to whatever they like. Also, many people have asked about other colors and I believe that this may be a good add as to help people express themselves in a better manner. As for the location of the installation, i find it extremely feasible to have this room in a university or a workplace as it has worked as a stress reliefer. While we were taking the installation down people were disappointed and many suggested that we should have such room available on a regular bases.

Overall, we were very thrilled by the experience and it turned out to be more enjoyable and attractive than we anticipated. At some point we had thought that the hardest part would be sticking the paper or gathering enough people, but we realized in the end the hardest part was hearing the compliments of many subjects passing by, looking at black room with all the words and scribbles that people unleashed, then making the decision to dismantle it all, and tear it off. Of course we tried to save the paper for future implementations, but unfortunately we couldn’t keep all of it intact. Whether or not we will implement the installation in the future is not certain, but we will certainly consider the recommendations and suggestions and try to make it as unforgettable as the first time.

You can find more pictures here. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151029973405681.475693.559715680&type=1