Where do you feel the safest?
Think about that for a second.
Is it your home? The comfort of your bed? Is it at work when you’re feeling awake and productive? Or maybe it’s out with your friends, surrounded by those you love? Now what happens when that safety is removed? When someone can reach you at any hour of the day, where ever you are?
Welcome to Blackout 21, an immersive and innovative venture into paranoia and the psychoses of your own mind… from the comfort of your own home.
From day one, it is clear this is a personal journey. The experience starts with a psychological assessment of paranoias, obsessions, and the control I have over them. Blackout is known for pushing participants beyond their daily status quo and then forcing self-reflection. This often leads to finding answers that were buried deep within—resulting in a transformation of the participant. Blackout 21 is no different.
But instead of a physical show, Blackout 21 is predominantly mental.
Blackout 21 starts with an invitation. A choice. It is up to you when to start; when to let them into your everyday. Make sure you are ready because it is a four day, three night experience. Phone calls, text messages, emails, in-person visits—all forms of interaction were allowable, day or night. However, these interactions will only occur once and if you miss it, that piece is gone.
This experience set a tone immediately. They would call and I would answer. Obedience is rewarded. I received multiple calls at work, while in meetings, and when out with friends. But the true tests came at night. Leaving my phone on loud, I would go to bed. Each night, I would receive a singular text: “Wake Up…”, and following the text was a phone call. Each call differed slightly, and sometimes instructions were attached. Falling back asleep was easier on the first night, but as the experience moved through its four day duration, sleep did not come easy. Sleep deprivation can reduce one’s attention and ability to form new memories, while increasing the effects of mania (mainly psychosis and paranoia). And as the experience continued, I started to feel the effects. A simple text message that caused my phone to buzz would send chills of excitement and nervousness.
Blackout 21 further played with the ideas of anticipation and expectation. They began telling me when they would call. This is a simple technique of building and breaking trust. By gaining rapport with you and then disappointing, it generates feelings of hope and then letdown. Again, this combined with the lack of sleep really reinforced feelings of mania.
However, this experience is not for everyone. Those who have trouble suspending belief or don’t want to make themselves vulnerable to their invasion into your life will not feel as intensely. True imagination, belief, and trust are needed. Follow instructions and give yourself to Blackout to get the most from this experience.
Judging a book on the first chapter would be unfair, but I can discuss it as an introduction. Blackout 21 succeeded in their innovation and in creating a mood of uneasiness and anxiety. They also have potential for growth in later chapters, which have the opportunity to bring in new elements to further build upon this foundation. They have mined data from each of us through their questionnaire; and our paranoia would be further increased with some added touches of personalization scattered throughout. Personalized phone calls are becoming more common place in immersive experiences, and Blackout 21 would benefit from this. Furthermore, the addition of a narrative would give us something to empathize with or give us motivation to keep going beyond curiosity. Hints of a storyline were heard throughout, but it would be nice to see this expanded upon.
As an introduction to a larger performance, Blackout 21 invaded my brain and took up residence. It created an atmosphere of unease and stepped out of the boundaries imposed by a normal performance. I look forward to where later chapters take us.
For more information on Blackout: 21 and to sign up, click here.