Study for AA Bronson, August 22, 2000, 2000
During my first year of Architecture School I volunteered for the Psychology Department's experiments in sensory deprivation. I agreed to be locked in a padded coffin for a week, in exchange for a sum of money, which I badly needed.
When I arrived, in the loose-fitting clothes they requested, they gave me a battery of tests, and then led me to a large room, padded on all four walls. I think it might have been an old classroom, but there were no windows. In the middle of the room was a long padded box, raised off the ground so that no vibration could reach the occupant. I was blindfolded, and my ears were padded. I lay down in the box with a button close to my hand in case I needed help. The box was closed on top of me and I was left in a sort of soft, sultry darkness, which was without dimension. Three times a day I was briefly removed from the box to use the bathroom and eat a sandwich, but for the most part I was left to think, and then to dream. Time disappeared. I had no consciousness of day or night, and images came and went: reality, thought and dreams, the conscious and the unconscious, all merged in a sort of continuous flow. Whenever I was let out of the box, I found myself intensely aware of physical space, although I remained blindfolded. I knew exactly the location of the walls and the dimensions of the spaces I passed through.
After three days I began to panic, and pushed the button. I wanted to end the experiment. It was Saturday, the day of the Santa Claus parade, and the woman who gave the tests was at the parade with her son. They asked if I could hold out until they located her, and they sounded so plaintive that I agreed. Three hours later she appeared, let me out of the box, gave me my tests, and I went home. The colors of nature were intense and sublime, the trunks of the trees shaggy with damp bark: my vision seemed precise and perfect.
I knew then that I belonged in that perfect box, that I would return to it.