I didn't know I was afraid of the dark until I walked into Eric Orr's "Zero Mass," an installation on view at the La Jolla location of the Museum of Contemporary San Diego (MCASD) as part of Phenomenal: California Light, Space Surface, the Pacific Standard Time exhibition.
The room you walk into is pitch black and oddly shaped, covered with some kind of paper curtain, which further disorients you as you slowly make your way inside. I was just steps away from my mom when I first entered Orr's piece, and even with the motherly love and protection within arm's length, I was seconds away from freaking out in a public panic attack when I heard the calm, confident voice of Max Metzler, an MCASD security guard who's become slightly famous for his presence inside the piece.
"Keep coming," he said. "Reach your arm out to the left and let the wall guide you in. Walk slowly and you won't run into anybody. In a few minutes, you'll be able to see some basic outlines."
The moment of panic passed and slowly but surely the fog lifted and things came into focus.
Push play and take an audio tour of "Zero Mass" with Metzler as your guide. He'll provide insights on the artist, give you a quirky history lesson involving the piece and pirates and expound on what the installation does to the human eye—he himself lives with an ocular condition that makes him sensitive to light, so it's easy to see why he's so at home in the dark.
As is the case with all of the pieces in the excellent Phenomenal show, though, the only real way to experience this work is in person.
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