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Kurt Hentschlager art show on hold as patrons fall ill

Authorities in Pittsburgh have temporarily shuttered a Chicago artist's atmospheric installation after three visitors reported experiencing seizure-like symptoms.

Pittsburgh exhibit has closed temporarily

Chicago-based Austrian artist Kurt Hentschlager's installation work ZEE is described as 'intense stroboscopic light in combination with thick artificial fog, resulting in a loss of spatial orientation.' (KurtHentschlager.com)

Authorities in Pittsburgh have temporarily shuttered a Chicago artist's atmospheric installation after three visitors reported experiencing seizure-like symptoms.

On Sunday, an 18-year-old woman was treated by emergency officials at the downtown Pittsburgh venue hosting ZEE, a sound, light and fog-filled installation created by Chicago-based Austrian artist Kurt Hentschalger.

District EMS Chief Paul Sabol told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the woman was the third person to report feeling ill since ZEE opened on Friday. In the meantime, ZEE will be temporarily closed.

Described as "intense stroboscopic light in combination with thick artificial fog, resulting in a loss of spatial orientation," the installation consists of a dense fog-filled room in which strobe lighting pulses intermittently as an ambient, low-frequency soundscape plays in the background.

Small groups are led inside to wander, guided by a rope, for about 10 to 15 minutes.

All visitors are warned beforehand that those susceptible to photo-sensitivity, those with epilepsy, breathing or heart problems, migraines, claustrophobia or anxiety should not partake in the exhibit. Before entering, participants must also sign a waiver.

Despite the precautions, it is apparently not uncommon for some visitors to lose their balance or feel ill.

ZEE has previously been mounted at other venues around Pittsburgh as well as in cities around the world, including Sao Paulo, Liverpool, New York and Mexico City.

The installation appeared at an Australian art festival in Hobart earlier this summer and, according to a reviewer for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, an acquaintance collapsed inside ZEE after about five minutes. The woman reported seeing images of people she knew flash before her eyes, which caused her to lose her balance.

"People see people. Of course, there are other people in there with you, but they see people they know, but they're not in there. The individual's mind is starting to partially add content," Hentschlager told the AuBC.

"I look at it predominantly as a canvas, a splendid void of some sorts, there is sensory deprivation and sensory overload and this [ZEE] is a combination of both, but mostly sensory overload."

Shaunda Miles, a spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, said patrons reported seizures in other venues that hosted ZEE as well.

With files from The Associated Press

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