Complicit Cinema


EEG, Hitchcock scene, custom software

Complicit Cinema is an experimental cinema that requires focussed attention from the viewer. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is used to measure the viewer’s brain activity and this allows the scene to move forward. As the scene progresses higher levels of brain activity are required for it to continue. The footage will stop or even reverse if the watcher loses concentration.

Artist statement

Hollywood’s growing industry of violent cinema such as the multi-million dollar Saw franchise has revealed an enormous public appetite for graphic violence and gore. The passivity of film excuses the viewer of their part in the violence. It disguises the truth that it is the viewer/consumer for whom the violence is performed and their appetite for suffering that is being satiated. The feedback loop between viewer/consumer and the creation of violence is too large to be visible to those it feeds.

This work takes the relationship of viewer/consumer to the creation of violence and shrinks the feedback loop to make it visible. It establishes the interest of the viewer as the driving force in the system; the role otherwise held by the progression of time. Within the installation, the scene will not play without an audience, nor will it continue without a focused mind to consume it.

The effects on the viewer

The installation plays the iconic shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho. For the viewer, the experience of this scene is transformed. Audience members invariably find themselves associating most strongly with the killer. This may be because he is the primary agent in the scene or that his face is never shown, allowing viewers to imagine themselves in his place. Regardless, the viewer’s assumption of this role heightens the perverse enjoyment of the content. The mental energy required to continue the scene increases with the scene itself. It can take a viewer some time to progress the scene to actual violence. And so, it can feel like an achievement to make the killer’s knife meet the victim’s skin.