Doug Hall: The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described

Dough Hall’s exhibit, The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described is showing at the San Francisco Art Institute from March 28 – June 6 2015.

Doug Hall’s installation is ominous. It’s ominous when you walk in and stays that way when you leave. The gallery is dark, and there are several television sets mounted about six feet high that are showing natural disasters and the awesome power of nature. The audio that accompanies the natural disasters is aggressive and ever present. Past the television sets is a cyclone barricade that encompasses two metal chairs and a Tesla coil.

The ominous setting inveigled the audience to speak in hushed voices. The imposing barricades, natural disaster feed and the uneasy anticipation of witnessing a Tesla coil zap metal chairs invites a bit of intimidation. Then there was the question, what if something goes wrong? How will it effect me? Everyone that walked in waited, toying with a bit of unpredictable danger.

One of the most striking thing about the exhibit is the separation of personal experience from the dangers of natural disasters. Another way of saying this is that if someone was able to witness a disaster as large as the ones shown on the television sets, they probably wouldn’t make it. It seems that Hall was trying to get us as close to the action as possible without destroying the lives of the audience, “Hall’s installation sets idealized notions of nature against the often terrifying reality.”

Television, arguably, is where we all learn to fear. This seemed to be an important element in this exhibit, by introducing fear through the television sets then making fear real and personal. One can’t help but daydream about the tangibility of danger and injury when waiting for the Tesla coil to fire off.

Hall’s exhibit was an interesting and a bit jarring experience. Tesla coils are far louder than one would expect. The exhibit makes you wait. There is an uneasy feeling about what’s really going to happen.

Tesla Coil zapping chairs

Big screen showing nature’s doom



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