Have you ever had a recurring nightmare? This art might be for you

Troy Hourie's immersive installation Apparitions is based on a recurring nightmare he had as a child.

Troy Hourie's immersive installation Apparitions is based on a recurring nightmare he had as a child

Imagine walking through an art installation, only to see an eerie figure lurking around the room near you. That's exactly what happens in Troy Hourie's latest performative installation Apparitions, where the artist himself plays a ghostly character.

Apparitions is based on a recurring nightmare Hourie had as a child. The dream featured a pair of Punch and Judy dolls with murderous intent, focused on the young Hourie. And since then, he's channeled the nightmare into art. Hourie explains, "Fear is an emotion that we all have and by playing with this it does release some sort of sense of insecurity that I had as a child." Hourie combined his childhood night terror with the esoteric themes in Henry James's uncanny novel The Turn of the Screw (also the inspiration for the celebrated Benjamin Britton opera).

Watch the video:

Troy Hourie's ghostly nightmare art

CBC Arts

2 years ago
Hourie's installation Apparitions is based on a recurring childhood nightmare. 4:10

In Apparitions, participants walk through the immersive installation that looks as if it's set in a haunted house. Within the structure there are three interactive components: a writing desk (viewers can open it to watch a film by Hourie); a bed (viewers can enter it vertically and see themselves lying in it in a mirror); and an attic (viewers climb a ladder to see into the room that's filled with children's belongings). When viewers climb the ladder, they trigger a sensor and begin a film played on the attic wall.

As impressive as all of these interactive elements are, it's his own performance that Hourie sees as powerful. That ghostly figure in the room with you? It's the character Quint, and Hourie doesn't break character as he stays in the room with viewers. He says, "I could use my presence as a way of encouraging the participants of the work to view the space in a different way." And the idea of performance has definitely been central to Hourie's practice: he's designed over 300 productions in theatre, musicals and opera.

Find out more about Troy Hourie and his latest project Freaks here.


As a young child, March Mercanti would play with his action figures for countless hours because he was obsessed with telling himself. Currently, March is a filmmaker living in Toronto, ON. He works at CBC Arts creating documentaries for artists across Canada.