A Screaming Good Time

Art exhibit ‘Scream Room’ invites audience to have cathartic experience by hollering their lungs out in public

By Molly Priddy
Participants of previous Scream Room exhibitions. Photos courtesy of Kylin O'Brien.

When we are young, we are full-throated about our needs. We emerge into life screaming, and those yelps and whines continue to be our main mode of communication until we’re taught to speak.

And for many of us, as we grow older, this desire to scream about problems or complaints or confusion or frustration in our lives is sublimated through more socially acceptable forms of expression, like frank discussion or comment cards.

But go to any sporting event and you’ll see it there, the desire to yell and shout coming alive as we cheer and jeer, faces red with the blood pumping through our veins and the feeling of being loud, of cathartic release.

With the idea of releasing a pressure valve in mind, this May, the Flathead Valley will have a couple chances to encounter a piece of living performance art from Brooklyn, New York — a mobile art gallery in which the audience becomes the art. Inside the gallery, people are invited to scream their hearts out.

The Scream Room is an interactive art exhibit from Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist Kylin O’Brien. Passersby are invited to enter the room to scream it all out, during which O’Brien will take a photo. O’Brien also takes a second photo, this one of the moment the person is done screaming and has let it go.

First, the Scream Room will make its way to Flathead Valley Community College on May 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; this event is for the college only. Then, May 3, the Scream Room opens up to the public and will be on the front lawn at ImagineIF Library in Bigfork from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. It makes its final stop in the Flathead on the front steps of ImagineIF Library in Kalispell on May 4 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Jenny Bevill, an adjunct art professor at FVCC and the person responsible for bringing the Scream Room to the Flathead, was visiting Brooklyn awhile back and met up with her friend, O’Brien. She saw what O’Brien was doing with the Scream Room and thought such an experience would be positive for the Flathead.

“My friend is the artist, and all of her projects are sort of participatory and involve the viewer and the audience doing something together, which I really love,” Bevill said last week. “You don’t get that a lot in Montana.”

A lot of the time, we think of art as a painting hanging on a wall or a sculpture in a gallery we’re not allowed to touch, she said. Interactive art such as the Scream Room gives both children and adults a reminder that art can be anything, because we are all artists.

“Art can be lots of different things; it can be active and all of us can make art in certain ways,” said Megan Glidden, community engagement librarian at ImagineIF. “We are always excited to get different opportunities for people to have new experiences, so this seemed like a great way to do that.”

The Scream Room isn’t soundproof; the mobile gallery, built by Nathan Sinai Rayman in Brooklyn, doesn’t have a floor or a roof. This means anyone nearby will likely hear the art being made that day.

Bevill and Glidden said while the experience is cathartic, hearing screams like that can trigger many emotions in people, and staff running the exhibit will be on hand to pass out resources for anyone having a hard time.

“Hopefully it will be a very cathartic, wonderful experience for people, but if it does have a different effect, that option is available,” Glidden said.

Bevill, who will offer a workshop on the Scream Room called “Art as Ally” on April 28, said anyone who’s even a little interested should stop by and see it for themselves. Also, people can scream in groups or pairs, so bring friends and family if you want to.

“Just come check it out — you don’t risk anything by just coming and watching,” she said. “I think that when you see people’s faces when they come out of the scream room, you’re going to want to do it.”

She also added that this is a unique opportunity for anyone who has ever felt shushed at a library in the past.

“I love the irony that we’re going to be screaming at the library,” Bevill said.

To register for Jenny Bevill’s “Art as Ally” workshop, taking place from 9 a.m. to noon on April 28, contact Debbie Struck at dstruck@fvcc.edu.

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