Pandora’s Box



(c) Music by Anouar Brahem, Le Pas Due Chat Noir.

Installation & Participatory Art project in response to the Pandora’s Box myth. This page documents much of the project’s development and context I was working in.

The idea was to create an immersive, experiential taste of Pandora’s magic for all that dared enter.

An old wooden box sits in a room, with a key hanging above it. Curiosity reveals to most participants that the key is on elastic. For those willing and able, the box can be easily opened. Inside the box is a digital art work on Hope & Fear, and a mirror. Nearby sits a board covered in words and images about hope and fear. Guidelines for participants here.

Local community was involved throughout. In drawing/writing/burning/sticking/pasting their thoughts and feelings about Hope and Fear in the ‘flying books’, then adding to this after interacting with the installation that resulted.

“I didn’t know whether to open the box or not… although I did. The images stirred up feelings of love and reminiscence…what peace is and inflicting power on the young. Curiosity is never rewarded with the certainty of what you will find, but the mystery. Fantastic work!”

“I loved this. I found it very beautiful… music really helped to change.. anticipation…but was very gentle and reassuring and relaxing and uplifting…so felt comfortable to hold mirror – looking very happy!! and watching picture, which were lovely. I felt like I wanted to stay near the box. It was caring and loving and warm. Images in darkness were intriguing. I couldn’t see the written books, so they were secretive. I saw it as a metaphor for risking living.”

“What did I feel? What did I see? What did I hope? Lots of questions. Who were these people? How did they hope? Will Barrack be the hope of the US people? Will boy soldiers be the hope of their families? Made me feel questioning?? About our future. So good I watched it twice. Congratulations!”

Immediate fear, couldn’t take in all the information – followed by the instructions – couldn’t find the key – instant fear – presumed it was a trick – Great to have an experience like this. Love the images. Very thorough. Very hopeful!!”

“Strong images some made me feel a little uncomfortable but that was ok! Love the interaction / note writing, though the hope egg was lovely but surplus to this piece of work. Touching.”

(Based on this feedback and reflection, the wisdom eggs were given their own project and removed from future installations.)

Cover of the Hope ‘flying book’ from a larger piece by Libby Davy

Contributions from local community (friends/colleagues/friends of friends) into ‘Flying Books’, a collaborative art book process developed by UK artist/writer/mentor Clare Nias.

Georgie Rock in ‘Fear Book’

From Katja Dell in ‘Hope Book’

After experiencing the piece, people could view and add to the Hopes & Fears board and the comments book.

The project developed when I considered how appropriate the Pandora Myth was to my own life, as me and my husband embark upon The Hoffman Process. I am also intrigued by how Pandora becomes Gaia in some myths and how this relates to global environmental and human rights issues. It seems highly appropriate that Pandora’s story is closely related to the Promethean myth. The spark of curiosity lights the flame of learning, from which knowledge and wisdom can grow. Again, this project references my post-graduate studies in Person-Centred / Holistic Education and psychoanalysis.

Perhaps through acknowledging our hopes and fears to ourselves, to each other, we may acquire the power of the gods…. the kind of self-knowledge and wisdom required to heal ourselves and the planet. Peace within leads to peace all around. Not without some difficulty. But like Pandora’s story, no matter what challenges we face, there is indeed Hope. A full reading of the Mythic Tarot pages below explains this in more depth.

What do you hope for? What do you fear?

There was a strong, personal connection between this project and archetypal concepts and journeys in the Tarot, primarily the Pandora card, which was recently pulled from the deck.

The collective unconscious and synchronicity (Jung), dependent co-arising (Buddhism) quantum physics (observer effect) all provide a massive support for philosophical underpinnings of my work – and will do well into the future.

Curiosity and its impact on learning is a topic I have also written about.

What’s the key to open your ‘box’? What would you find inside? Do the words of Anais Nin (yet) ring true?

“…and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

(c) The Mythic Tarot (highly recommended).

“…the experience of hope, meaning and faith in the midst of difficulties.”

Further inspiration came from a visit to the Venice Biennale 2009 and Yoko Ono’s work, in particular Anton’s Memory, when she was awarded the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement to art.

Participatory element of Anton’s Memory from German installation of the work. (c) Yoko Ono.

Video of the Venice show.

Go Yoko! Lots of good stuff on her highly participatory website. And she’s on Facebook and Twitter. All very collaboration / Web 2.0. No wonder I got lost in social media consultancy for a while there. It’s all connected!

Associated projects/pages:

WISDOM EGGS – crack & ponder

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5 responses to “Pandora’s Box

  1. A couple of people have asked about the digital photo device we used. It was a Polaroid 3.5 inch Portable Digital Picture Frame, currently £15 on amazon. A bit of hassle to load and battery life not great, but a good entry point for this kind of work. Let me know if you find anything easier with better battery life at a reasonable price. Could also look at using external speakers (we asked people to insert ear buds but there is a hygiene question there).

  2. Have been asked to explore this kind of installation being offered around a theatre project – perhaps in the foyer before a performance? … it seems appropriate to tailor the work to a range of different themes and contexts. Allowing people an intimate experience of whatever your own piece is exploring, with space via the pin board to record their own responses.

    Community participants could offer images of their own hopes and fears in advance of a performance.

    What do you think?

  3. Pingback: Wisdom Eggs cracked open… « Egg House Art·

  4. My fear is to lose any close ties with my family of origin, especially when they are close to being on ‘my page’ I love the feeling of close ties in bonding with trust

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