‘Entirely hollow aside from the dark’: a one of a kind artwork and experience

‘Entirely hollow aside from the dark’: a one of a kind artwork and experience
'Entirely hollow aside from the dark' Smugglers Cave, Portrane, Co Dublin. Photo by AlanJames Burns.
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Entirely hollow aside from the dark is harder to explain with pen and paper, or with a keyboard as is the case here, than it is to experience. The immersive installation, described as a ‘psychoacoustic sound event’, will briefly call Creswell Crags, in the East Midlands, home allowing visitors to experience and consider nature alongside mental health in a unique way.


Created by artist AlanJames Burns in collaboration with writer Sue Rainsford and sound editor Ian Dunph, Entirely hollow aside from the dark is beginning a tour around the UK. The installation first exhibited in 2017 when it traveled to five different caves in Ireland. Now, though, the installation has been adapted to specifically cater to Creswell Crags using state of the art technologies to challenge visitors, asking them to reflect on climate change as well as mental health.

Creswell Crags were chosen for their historic significance, which recently made the news. The caves are the only known place in Britain to have Ice Age Rock Art that dates back 13,000 years ago. Moreover, the caves are home to the largest trove of ‘Witches’ Marks’, or apotropaic marks that were created to ward off evils and negative forces, in the UK. The site may also become one of the UK’s nominations for the World Heritage Site list.

In line with the intent of the project, Burns has also addressed actual environmental impacts. Entirely hollow aside from the dark operates on a leave-no-trace policy and its electrical system uses low voltage to reduce its impact. Burns’ team has also abided by a plant-based diet during the project and traveled by boat and train to reduce their contribution to the project’s overall environmental impact.

Within the crags, a team of workers have installed the three-dimensional audio installation. In the darkness of the caves, visitors are immersed in the sounds, which beacon them to enter into a different state of mind. Entirely hollow aside from the dark thus creates a ‘visceral experience of journeying into Mother Earth’s inner dialogue.’ To highlight issues of well-being and mental health, Burns worked with a number of professionals including cognitive psychologists, anthropologists, voice hearers, and neurologists to explore and address the stressors presented by everyday life. For the Creswell Crags edition of the installation, Burns has worked with Claire Howlin, a music psychology researcher and Irish Research Council scholar.

‘We all too often talk about what we think and rarely about how we think. The aural mind is often full of thoughts darting around, hard to follow, disconcerting at times,’ said Burns while discussing Entirely hollow aside from the dark. ‘This artwork presents the thoughts of a relatable Mother Earth character moving from audio speaker to speaker, through the natural environment of a cave, achieving a relatable parallel to these processes of the human mind.’

‘Entirely hollow aside from the dark’ is running from September 3rd through September 7th at Creswell Crags in the East Midlands.