Hyperzoo

A video a made for an installation project at uni; the video was played in a chocolate-box themed room, with chocolate scent, and chocolate fondue served to participants.

The video was narrated by my Finnish friend Karoliina; I wanted to utilise a foreign accent to play off of the exotic nature of chocolate and the potential sexuality of chocolate; Chocolate is a chemical stimulant via several chemicals in its make-up, including mood enhancement and aphrodisiac qualities (the narration did original detail this but I choose to omit it in the final piece as I felt it was getting a bit too heavily weighed down with the science and didn’t want to visualise emotional change with models in the video piece - its focus was on the chocolate itself). Likewise foreign accentation is generally considered somewhat arousing (due to being different and thus interesting - and at a more scientific level indicating a distant origin and thus a greater likelihood of adding diversity to the gene pool).  

The piece begins with a list the most abundant chemicals found in the cacao bean (one of the most complex foodstuffs). The list builds to crescendos with more and more chemicals being listed to a point where they are an overwhelming mess of sounds with individual chemicals barely discernible. In the sound edit I placed the most recognisable chemicals at the beginning, so at first it could seem almost like ingredients, and would not initially alienate the viewer, with familiar names like fibre and iron. After a mildly more dramatic delivery of “fat” the more unusual chemicals kick in and the long constant barrage of chemicals begins. The section has a duel purpose, as a pure scientific information, and building up pressure for a release of excitement when the chemicals are finally announced as CHOCOLATE.   

In the background a creamy colour fades to a melted puddle which slowly coalesces into a bar of chocolate, as the words cover a lot of this it seems to appear out of nowhere. The whole sequence together is almost as if the chemicals are mixed to create the chocolate. The effect of the bar reverse melting took rather a lot of experimentation, as chocolate itself has a high surface tension so holds its former shape once melted until it is externally manipulated. To over come this the bar shown is not in fact chocolate but a milk and chocolate solution devised after numerous experiments with different combinations of chocolate and liquids to create something chocolate coloured that melts more like water ice. 
 
The second half of the piece is a quasi-poetic exploration of chocolate as food; the many varieties and combinations with other foods it can be delivered in, and a very loose explanation of how the cacao bean is processed into chocolate - hopefully enough to inform without returning to the over-science of the first half.

The setting of the installation was designed to be totally immersive. The audience entered directly onto the seating area through a small opening in the back corner to find themselves amongst an explosion of paper, card, foil and chocolatey tones. To achieve this I used a large bookcase as a base for the chocolate box, creating covers for  each of the squares to represent chocolates in the box (or empty slots where chocolates were if the viewer chooses to interpret it that way). From there I sent out streams of paper (along one wall, and forming another temporary wall to enclose the space), as if the wrapping of the box had been unfurled towards the viewer, and then used sections of cardboard to cover up anything also in the room and make the environment complete.

To complete the room it was scented, with a combination of melted chocolate (in the bowls atop the screen) which was agitated repeatedly in the period prior to audience admission to make it’s scent spread into the room. And a liberal sprinkling of chocolate scented oil throughout the room, which created a powerful chocolate like smell.

All content © James Grigg, 1992-2020, unless otherwise noted.