House of Fear

What do people really fear? How do public ideas about fear compare with private ones? To find out, in the fall of 2006 the Museum of Contemporary Phenomena, in collaboration with SHED Studio, launched “House of Fear” - a public inquiry and communal response project.

In the first stage, which opened last October during the Ravenswood Art Walk and extended through the month of October, visitors to the Museum were invited to sit in a room which allowed them a moment of contemplative solitude. They were given a questionnaire which asked a single question on its face: “What do you fear?”

Their answers to this question were presented as “House of Fear,” a public installation presented just after Halloween 2006. The results were surprising. Of more than eighty respondents, only one feared the nuclear bomb, while several feared spiders. Not one mentioned al Qaeda, but many mentioned snakes. However, the most prominent and compelling fear of all was a fear of growing old: either alone, or without health care, or without money.