48 HOURS: DARK & ISOLATED

 ​A detailed report of the process and observation of a man isolated in the dark for 48 hours.

CONCEPT

      The goal of this experiment is to document a person’s journey entirely while they are trapped in a locked apartment in the dark for 48 hours. They would have no way of leaving, no access to any forms of communication; such as phones, computers, etc. They would have no way of perceiving the notion of time using external sources such as clocks or sunlight. The person would be provided with the basic necessities such as food, water, a toilet and a bed

The person’s behavior and the journey would be recorded throughout the entire experiment using two night-vision cameras placed at two different angles of the space. Psychologist Ambre Lellouche and I, Carole Dana, would be taking turns observing the subject and noting their behavior throughout the entire experiment.
   
The intention behind this experiment is to learn more about the effects of these conditions on a person’s internal clock, mental state, and behavioral pattern
  ​    

RESEARCH

The deprival of one or more senses is something that most certainly tends to affect the rest of the body. This deprivation can be non-optional and unavoidable in nature. In other instances, it can be willing and with a particular intent. An example of the former would be someone who becomes blind, and thus the other senses of that person’s body vary and sway as a result. An example of the latter would be someone who engages in the use of a sensory deprivation chamber or tank. Such a person could be doing to attempt to treat drug addiction (e.g., smoking) lower back pain and other things. Regardless of the reasons or genesis of sensory deprivation, the effects on the rest of the body and the other senses can be profound and extensive.    

ANALYSIS   
There exists others that have conducted the same or similar work. One such party was Michel Siffre with NASA (Barrett and Martin). He trapped himself 100 meters deep in the French-Italian Maritime Alps for two months at a time in 1962 with no clocks or any device that would indicate the passing of time. Ten years later, in a NASA sponsored experiment, he was placed in a cave on his own in Texas for a period of six months, let alone the two days used for our experiment. In any event, the results of Siffre’s work were rather interesting. For the first two months or so, the internal clock in his body was very much in line with the clock that we all follow. Indeed, it kept right at about 24 hours. However, things started to vary widely for the remaining four months. There was a wide swing in both directions, with the internal clock going as low as 18 hours and as high as 51 hours. Again, this is based on the standard 24-hour pattern that most people know and experience (NSF). In short, his clock remained in sync with reality for a while. However, it became extremely out of phase after the first sixty days when he went into a deep depression and developed suicidal thoughts (Beck).

To state the obvious, getting out of phase with time is a significant issue. Losing track of hours, days or even weeks at a time is even more profound. Siffre’ s work showed this to be true. Similar work was done by Antoine Senni and Josie Laures. In the case of the former of those two, she came out of her cave on March 12th, 1965. Her internal clock and the tracking of the same indicated that she thought it was February 25th. This is a disparity of more than two weeks. When it comes to Senni, he came out on April 5th of that same year and thought it was February 4th. This would be a disparity of roughly two entirely months (Beck). All of that research relates to the author’s in that the overall premise is the same. However, the time horizon used with the NASA study was apparently a lot longer. To get the most complete and definitive results, it is perhaps wiser to use a longer time frame. If the NASA study had stopped short of sixty days, for example, then the findings that came later would not have come at all (Beck).
Those that are deprived against their will also serve as an example of sensory deprivation and what it can do. Indeed, Oliver Sack did a TED Talk where he spoke about the struggles and patterns of those that are blind. He found that roughly ten percent of blind people end up having hallucinations and other psychological issues due to their lack of sight. This seems to occur with most people that are blind (or that lose another sense, such as hearing) will see their body react and/or compensate for the loss of the sense in question. These shifts and changes can sometimes be nominal and subtle in nature. In the case of people that have definite and prolonged psychological issues such as hallucinations, they would be on the upper extreme. There are other issues that are the genesis of hallucinations. Mental illness and drug use are just two of them. However, sensory deprivation would seem to be another common one that arises in certain groups (Sacks).
 In a piece done by NPR on the same subject and with the same man, it is discussed and shown that hallucinations and other mind-related effects can come many different antecedents or combinations of the same. In addition to those that are blind, the same outcome can come with those that have epilepsy, that have migraine headaches or that have narcolepsy. Indeed, anything that alters or inhibits one’s perceptions and consciousness can have real and extensive effects (Lichtman). This work relates to the author’s in that deprivation of one or more senses, regardless of the reason, can have effects on the mind that are impossible to miss and overlook. Just as the author was concerned about mental states, the same was true for Sack. The precise focus and manifestation of symptoms was a little different. However, the basic premise of both was that the mind reacts in one or more ways when one or more senses becomes absent (Sacks).    
Even Hollywood and other entertainment spheres have been quick to explore and reflect how this all happens with certain people and in certain situations. An example of this would be the film from 1958 that was done by Warner Brothers. Titled Gateways to the Mind, included a discussion about the senses of the human body and how the brain reacts and responds based on the input, or lack thereof, that comes from those senses (IMDB). One of the most relevant segments of the film relates to an experiment that was done at McGill University. The experiment involved a person being placed in a state of monotony. Even having something defined, yet simple, as monotony apparently was theorized as causing hallucinations and other complications. Along those same lines, there was a research in the movie that boasted that one can easily tap into the memories and recollections of a person. This can be done, as the claim goes, by triggering and firing off the right part of the brain. The caveat, of course, is that this has to be done in a controlled and regulated environment, normally during surgery. Even so, the fact that this be possible, even back in the 1950’s, is intriguing and there are many considerations and implications to ponder, even if some creative license was taken (Waffles).
    
   
Gateways to the Mind by the Warner Bros, 1958
    
Gateways to the Mind was actually one of a set of eight that was done by Bell Laboratories. There is the coverage of many years of material and research, dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks. The modern person whose work is clearly the linchpin of the 1958 film would be Wilder Penfield. He surmised a number of things relating to the mind. Like Oliver Sack, as mentioned before, he made repeated references to hallucinations and how the presence (or lack thereof) of the sentences can cause them to occur. Something that was clearly referenced in the film was neural stimulation. The aforementioned stimulation as a means to revive and electrify memories involves the stimulation of the temporal lobes of the mind. Déjà vu, the feeling of having experienced something prior due to similarities with new events, is something else he covered extensively (KUMC). This all dovetails with the experiment of the author in that there are definitive effects on the mind that are rendered when certain stimuli (or lack thereof) is present;    
   CONCLUSION   
The senses are a very important of life and survival. Having a good sense of perception and logic is an invaluable thing to possess. When things happen such as genetics, accidents or so forth, this can wreak havoc on these senses and perceptions. Some people are able to compensate and react in kind. Others are much less able to cope and react in the best way.

CASTING

It is a very tricky process choosing which person would be fit to endure an experiment such as this. What criteria would be the most adequate for optimal results? Which personality traits would render a person fit for isolation and light deprivation over a long period of time? These are just a few questions out of many that psychologist Ambre Lellouche and I were asking ourselves once it was time to choose the right candidate.

We put out an advertisement on several social media sites and communities online:

"For an art project, we are looking for a collaborator to work on a 48H experiment.
The subject will aim to document the effects of confinement and isolation for 48 hours in the dark.
We are looking for a volunteer who is serious, adventurous and ready to invest time and effort. The experiment will be the subject of a video (using night vision camera).
Contact us as soon as possible if interested, with your resume, presenting yourself and why you are interested in this project. (18+)"

We received 38 emailed responses, ages ranging from 18 to 52 years, both male and female.
Filtering them out and eliminating candidates who either didn’t seem as invested in their emails or for other practicalities, we replied to 7 candidates and invited them to individual interviews.

We created a list of questions that would direct the interviews and help choose the right candidate:

  • What can you tell us about your journey in terms of your career?
  • What are your motivations?
  • Do you have any phobias? If yes, name them and explain where they might have originated from.
  • Can you relate this experiment to one or several events in your life?
  • What obstacles do you think you will face during the experiment?
  • Which of the applied constraints of this experiments are you the most worried about?
  • Are you dealing with any issues or troubles at the moment, internally or externally? If yes, please discuss them.
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • Have you ever taken drugs, prescription or recreationally? If yes, please name them and state the reason.
  • How do you feel about being observed for 48 hours?
  • Do you consent on signing a release form taking full responsibility of your choice to participate in this experiment and agreeing to all its conditions?
SUBJECT CHOSEN
Last name :      Roy 
First name :     Damas 
Age :                    21 years old
Height :             1m80    

ON SITE PREPARATION

   
MATERIALS:
Two EZVIZ C2 Mini cameras 720p HD, Wi-Fi with night vision, movement detection, microphone, 130° wide angle, magnetic base
Two rolls of aluminum foil     
Two rolls of tape         
Two 120GB Micro SD cards
Various ingredients for the preparation of the subject’s meals in relation to his vegetarian diet
 
PROCESS: 
Finding an apartment that is compact and has only one or no windows
Use the aluminum foil to cover up the window to block out the sun, putting up several layers and setting it with tape
Using tape to cover up light switches
Using tape to cover all the light emitted from electrical devices           
Setting up the cameras on two different walls of the apartment
Insert one 120GB Micro SD card in each camera
Connecting the cameras to the Wi-Fi
Test the cameras using a mobile device and checking the live feed
Check the night vision feature on live feed
Do a sound check
Do a playback check
Prepare the subject’s meals
Remove all sharp and/or dangerous objects
  
Once the subject arrived (11:30pm), we introduced him to the space and briefed him again on the conditions of the experiment.
 
We asked him to sign a release form which frees us from any legal responsibilities towards the subject and his physical/mental health. The release form also states that he has volunteered to participate in this experiment and is here of his own free will and agrees to all the conditions of the experiment. The form also provides us with the rights to the footage.
 
We entrusted the subject with task of taping up the gap under the door as well as the final light switch after we left.
    

LIVE OBSERVATIONS

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THE OBSERVED'S BEHAVIOR

   
The following is a note of the most striking behavior that the subject did.
 
The subject spent an abnormal amount of time sleeping. We believe he did so to allow time to pass faster. This only confused and frustrated him more because he could not decipher how many hours he slept and therefore felt incapable to guess the amount of time that had elapsed.
 












 

On the second day, due to how much he had slept the day before, it became almost impossible for him to fall asleep. This rendered him more and more irritated. He started pacing back and forth in the space, walking around in circles, again and again, changing speeds at different times. He would get up and sit down and get up again all in the same minute.
 
He would communicate with us often especially during the second day. He would ask repeatedly what time it was. He would complain often about how time was not passing, about how this experiment will never end. He would blurt our curse words to express his anger. At some points, he would go and stand by the front door to listen and see if we were approaching, I assumed.
 
He was experiencing an extreme state of boredom. He was going around the entire space, which was not very big at all, and trying to explore every bit of it just to have something to do. He was trying to find any object he can just to have something to think about. One of the objects that he used to most to pass the time was a water bottle; he would fiddle with it, roll it on the floor, sometimes as if he was expecting it to come back.
 
He tried to stimulate his auditory senses by singing, humming, whistling, tapping on every surface available such as a table and mirrors.
 His eating habits were not out of the ordinary. I would have expected him to overeat, but he ate a normal amount. 
    

THE OBSERVER'S JOURNEY

   
Being enclosed in a dark space in 48 hours is something anyone would deem difficult to endure, but no one, Ambre and I included, would have expected to observe someone for 48 hours to be as difficult as it was.
 
We decided it would be fair to take 5-6 hour shifts each, that way the person on duty wouldn’t have to watch a screen longer than what would be considered the equivalent of two lengthy consecutive full movies, and the person off duty would be able to get a minimal amount of sleep.
Unfortunately, regardless of the system we implemented to help make this two day experiment easier to manage, we were still not getting enough sleep and that led to a lack in other basic necessities. This created a lot of tension between us, especially when it came to waking the other person up for their shift. It is ironic I feel, for we the viewers from our comfy lit apartment, in each other’s company, with access to the internet and other resources, were getting a quarter of the sleep the subject was getting in his small, dark and isolated space. It is aggravating to watch someone sleep for 30 hours when you are lacking sleep yourself.
 
Before all of this started, when my partner and I were discussing the details of the experiment, she stated that it is important to include an escape path or metaphorically an “abort button” for the subject so that they may leave the experiment whenever they feel that they have reached their absolute limit. I was highly against this idea, for I don’t feel a person can really trust their decision making once put under harsh conditions, as well as it is probable that the subject is not really aware of their true limits and could quit before even nearing them. Furthermore, I explained to her that the subject would be a volunteer and therefore has to agree to the fact that they would have to be trapped, with no way of exiting.
After the experiment started, our opinions on the matter ironically swapped. The moment the subject started trying to communicate with us or started getting restless and showing signs of anxiety I immediately had the urge to go and check on him. I was more worried about him than I thought I would be. It was much more difficult for me to separate myself emotionally than I had thought. On the other hand, every time I expressed such opinions and/or feelings, Ambre was quick to shut me down and told me that he will be fine and to just let it go and let him endure this without any external aid. This experiment taught us a lot about ourselves and our capacity to feel, even through a screen.
    

PSYCHOLOGIST'S STATEMENT

Translated from French to English

   
Cette expérience, dans son dispositif même, -être dans le noir, seul, sans repère temporel - est une replongée de nos premières angoisses infantiles. 
Là où psychanalyste Anglais Winnicott nous dit que "la solitude nous angoisse, et pourtant nous avons tous besoin d'être seuls pour nous ressourcer. C'est l'un des paradoxes de l'être humain." Il pense que cette solitude est nécessaire, il parle de capacité d'être seul. Il montre comment le petit enfant, pour mûrir affectivement, fait l'expérience de la solitude bien que sa mère soit à ses côtés. Qui est une solitude accompagnée et apaisante. 
 
Ici lors de l'expérience, cette angoisse infantile est tout à fait rejouée. Il y a la peur d'être seul, dans les moments où ils regardent la caméra, où il nous cherche du regard ou même nous appel. Il invente même un système de communication qu'il croit réel pour communiquer avec nous. Il pense que les clignotements d'une caméra veulent dire oui et celle de l'autre caméra veulent dire non. 
Il joue avec les câbles, avec la lumière qu'il essai d'allumer, il joue avec le cadre posé au préalable et recherche notre présence. Que l'on revienne, finalement pour lui dire "non" et lui imposer des limites. 
Mais nous ne jouerons pas ce rôle de mère suffisamment bonne (concept également découvert par D. W. Winnicott) nous n'interviendrons pas malgré ces pleurs ou ces cris. Ce qui le met en forte colère, il marche de plus en plus vite, il cogne, cri, tape frénétiquement sur des objets... 
 
Nous avons fait rejouer en lui ces angoisses infantiles, la seule chose auxquels il se raccrochait nous dira-t-il c'était notre rôle, notre présence constante à l'observer, sans défaillir (il nous posera même des questions après pour vérifier si nous avons vu tel ou tel moment). 
 
Mais cette expérience était une expérience pour le participant, mais aussi pour nous. Nous même avons transférer nos propres angoisses, en voulant revenir, "le consoler" et nous l'avons traité comme une mère quand nous avons été le retrouver. Lui demandant s’il avait bien mangé, et nous avons eu sans cesse de le rassurer sur notre présence constante. 
 
Ici plus encore que des angoisses infantiles nous avons traités des rapports de mère a enfant, car nous avons fait partie inhérente de l'expérience.    
   
This experiment, in itself - to be in the dark, alone, without any temporal indications – is a relapse of our first infantile fears. 
English psychoanalyst Winnicott once stated "the solitude worries us, but nevertheless we need to be alone to nurture ourselves. It is one of the paradoxes of the human condition. " He believes that this solitude is necessary and he speaks about our capacity to be alone. He shows that for a child to mature affectively experiences solitude, although its mother is by its side. This is an accompanied and soothing solitude. 
 
Here, during the experiment, this infantile anxiety is completely relived. There is a fear of being alone, in the moments when the subject looked at the camera when he looked around to us and even called to us. He even invented a system of communication which he considered real in order to communicate with us. He thought that the blinking of one camera mean “Yes” and that of the other camera means “No”. 
He played with the cables, with the light that he tried to switch on, he played with the frame placed beforehand and searched for our presence; that we return finally to tell him "no" and impose on his limits. 
But we did not play this “well enough” mother's role (a concept also discovered by D.W. Winnicott) we did not intervene in spite of his tears or his shouts. This put him in a strong state of anger; he walked faster and faster back and forth in the space, shouted, and banged fervently on objects... 
 
We recreated in him his childhood fears, the only thing to which he clung, he told us, was our role; our constant presence, observing without fail (he even asked us questions later to verify if we saw such or such moment). 
 
This experiment was not only an experience for the participant, but also for us. We even had to transfer our own fears, by wanting to return to him, to console him" and we treated him as a mother when we were finally going to free him; asking him if he had eaten well, ceaselessly reassuring him that we were always there. 
 
Here, more still than infantile fears, we dealt with a mother to child rapport because we were an inherent part of the experience.
    

SUBJECT'S REACTION

   
Two weeks after the experiment was conducted we asked Damas Roy, the subject, to describe to us his experience during the entire experiment in his words;
   Ma première réaction a été de m’interroger sur les motivations même de Carole de réaliser un tel projet. Ma curiosité et mon envie d’expérimenter des choses hors du commun m’ont poussé à la rencontrer.  J’avais l’envie de pouvoir d’une façon ou d’une autre me confronter à moi-même et cette expérience me proposait un statut de solitaire dans l’obscurité coupé du monde pendant 48h. Mais c’est surtout en écoutant les motivations et explications de Carole et Ambre, la psychologue, vis à vis du projet qui m’ont convaincu d’y participer. 
 
Avant l’expérience je me sentais un peu angoissé par le fait de rester seul pendant 48h sans savoir ce que j’allais faire et ressentir. Pendant la première journée je ne me sentais pas particulièrement mal. J’en ai profité pour me poser et faire une longue réflexion sur moi-même, sur le passé, le futur étant donné que j’avais le temps. Des souvenirs que je pensais avoir oublié me sont revenu et j’ai pris beaucoup de plaisir à les revivre. J’ai eu des longs moments de sommeil prolongés. J’ai pratiquement dormis toute la journée... J’ai mangé quand j’avais faim et non quand il était leur de mangé, j’ai dormis quand j’avais envie de dormir et non quand c’était forcément l’heure de dormir. J’entendais et faisait beaucoup plus attention aussi à la vie autour de moi (les voisins) : les télévisions allumées les lavabos qui coulaient, les chasses d’eaux les gens qui parlaient entre eux etc. Et même pendant le deuxième jour j’ai entendu malgré moi un rapport intime qui fut d’ailleurs très court ... Heureusement pour moi.
 
Quand j’ai sentis approcher les 24h je me sentais un peu triste et seul, je me suis demandé ce que j’allais faire pendant le deuxième jour.
Pour le deuxième jour je me suis sentis beaucoup plus ennuyé et nerveux j’avais hâte que cela se termine car je sentais que c’était le dernier jour du coup le temps m’a paru vraiment interminable. Et surtout je n’arrivais plus à dormir vu que j’avais déjà énormément dormis la veille.
J’ai passé plus de temps à tourner en rond pour essayer de savoir l’heure (si on était l’après-midi ou le soir), et surtout aussi à m’exciter nerveusement et monter en pression plus le temps passé. 
Quand la porte c’est ouvert à la fin des 48h j’ai ressenti un vrai soulagement de libération et du plaisir. Même si je n’étais pas en captivité pendant des semaines j’ai quand même eu un sentiment agréable de liberté. Juste après les 48h je me sentais un peu à l’ouest pendant quelques heures mais à part ça j’allais très bien. 
 
Aujourd’hui, j’ai beaucoup aimé faire cette expérience ça m’a permis de bien réfléchir sur beaucoup de choses et ça ne fait pas de mal de rester seul coupé du monde extérieur sans connexion avec la société et pour autant être dans un studio au cœur de Paris, ce qui est très paradoxal.    
   My first reaction was to question Carole’s intentions to conduct such a project. My curiosity and my desire to experiment things that are out of ordinary drove me to meet her. I wanted, in one way or another, to confront myself and this experience offered a solitary status in the dark, cut off from the world for 48. But it’s especially by listening to the explanations and motivations of Carole and Ambre, the psychologist, towards the project that convinced me to participate.
 
Prior to the experiment, I felt a little anxious by the mere fact of being alone for 48h without knowing what I will do or feel.
During the first day, I didn’t feel particularly bad. I took the opportunity to relax and reflect on myself in length, on the past and the future since I had the time. Memories that I thought I had forgotten came back to me and It was a pleasure to relive them. I had long hours of deep sleep. I basically slept all day… I ate when I was hungry and not when it was time to eat, I slept when I wanted to and not when it was necessarily time to sleep.  I listened and payed more attention to my environment, including my neighbors; the televisions, the water flowing in sinks, toilets flushing, people speaking to each other, etc. I even heard them the second day having an “intimate” moment, which fortunately for me didn’t last very long.
 
When I felt I was approaching the 24 hour mark I felt a little sad and alone. I wondered what I was going to do the second day.
For the second day, I felt much more bored et anxious… I really wanted it to end because it was the last day and time felt endless, especially because I wasn’t able to sleep anymore to the amount of sleep I had the day before.
I spend more time walking in circles to try and figure out the time (If it was the afternoon or the evening), and especially because I was getting more nervous and felt the pressure rise with the passing time.
 
When the door finally opened, I felt a sense of relief, liberation and pleasure. Even if I was not held captive for weeks I still felt a pleasant and freeing feeling. Just after it was over I felt a bit off balance for a few hours but other than that I felt fine.
 
Today, I really loved the experience for it allowed me to think about a number of things and it doesn’t hurt to be alone, cut off from the world outside with no connection to society even for a studio in the heart of Paris, which I found very ironic.
    

SUBJECT'S REACTION