The aim of LABYRINTH PSYCHOTICA is to get everyone thinking and talking about psychosis with the aid of two artistic tools: THE WEARABLE and THE LABYRINTH, which function as a prosthesis for imagination.


Psychosis is one of the greatest mysteries of human existence. Empathy for this extreme human state of mind was considered very difficult, if not impossible. With the launch of LABYRINTH PSYCHOTICA  change has come. With the aid of new technology, professional healthcare workers and the general public are now able to experience psychotic phenomena and learn just how difficult it is to function when ones senses are shifted and realities start to mesh. In the past doctors would use LSD to better understand their patients, now there is a digital form.


THE WEARABLE is an augmented reality system that allows users to perceive their direct surrounding as if in psychosis. Facial recognition software, for instance, can make a colleague appear demonic while the user attempts to maintain real time communication. The Wearable thus exemplifies the difficulty of orientation and concentrating on everyday matters when one is constantly distracted by voices and visual apparitions. Participants can be filmed and later review the footage, and so compare their internal experience to its external appearance.


THE LABYRINTH s a multimedia installation of 5.50 x 5.50 x 2.20 meters and offers an interactive surrealist walk through a labyrinth in which images appear out of thin air, and walls and other fixed elements seem to come to life. The visitor is fully immersed in the mesmerizing, adventurous, and confronting world of psychosis. With surprises lurking around each bend the Labyrinth creates a distorted experience of space and time, brimming with additional meaning. 


THE WEARABLE and THE LABYRINTH are referred to as ‘do-it-yourself-psychosis’ projects for two reasons, the first being the technology. With THE WEARABLE, the Wii allows for a wearer to partially determine the intensity of ‘the voices’ by pressing the top buttons, the more one presses, the more intense the sound layers become. With THE LABYRINTH, ones own movements determine how much one experiences. One can change the whole experience by hand gestures and positioning of ones eyes. The second reason relies on the imaginative abilities of participants. With THE WEARABLE, the experience happens in a two-by-two construction in which one participant wears THE WEARABLE and the other follows the experience (after one person wears the experience, they switch). During the experience one is encouraged to use ones imagination in the form of role-play. First one decides on an imaginative setting together, for instance one might pretend one is in the supermarket. If there is art on the wall, one might pretend one is visiting an art exhibition. One then continues with deciding the personal relation, which might be strangers, brother and sister, mother and child or doctor and patient. This will influence the narratives that are created, what one should say, how one is expected to behave. In this it is challenging to pretend that the person is not wearing the wearable, and react accordingly to any odd phenomena. If they suddenly laugh out loud, why is this? The results are uncannily similar to behavior and communication related to psychosis. Movement becomes altered, speech slows down, hesitations occur, or one simply does not react. Simply viewing people who are engaged with the wearable becomes an art experience in itself, an artwork about the tensions between inside experience and outside appearance.

With THE LABYRINTH one also relies on ones own imagination and ability to become ‘thin skinned’, opening ones senses, allowing the experience to infiltrate. Does one create a coping system? Does one allow for the creation of enlarged inner narratives?


In medical literature, psychosis is often described as a severe mental illness during which thoughts and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. In a state of psychosis one might hear voices that others do not hear, see things that others do not see, and have beliefs that others do not share, often causing someone to act, speak and think in unfathomable ways. In isolation these behaviors and cognitions are not necessarily seen as illness, but when they manifest themselves in a way that causes someone to retreat from society, to become a danger to him- or herself and/or others, they are usually considered as a set of symptoms of mental illness and described as hallucinations and delusions.


In order to help their patients, doctors have traditionally simulated symptoms to better understand what their patients are going through, but how to simulate psychotic phenomena? In the past, doctors took drugs, such as LSD, to better understand hallucinatory phenomena. But, as such actions are now considered taboo, one might consider possibilities of simulating psychotic experiences with the aid of technical innovations as a form of digital LSD. Like a flight simulator helps aspiring pilots in their journey of learning how to fly, technological tools can be developed in a way that may act as a prosthesis to a persons imagination, to help better understand what it is like to be in the mental state of psychosis.


When I tell people that my research is about understanding the subjective experience of psychosis through psychosis simulation, they seem to consider this very unpleasant, and as a consequence, I often receive the question why would anyone want to simulate psychosis, let alone experience the simulation? My own personal reason for wanting to do this is that my sister-in-law, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, committed suicide in 2005 by jumping off the 7th floor of a building. Simply put, schizophrenia could be described as a condition of suffering chronically from psychotic episodes. After her death, I was struck by the fact of how little I knew about psychosis or why she might have wanted to end her life. Apart from a general ‘it must be too horrible to imagine’ sensation, I realized I had not made any in-depth inquiries while she was alive, and I somehow just passively accepted the situation as it was. In order to understand my passive curiosity, I began to investigate the nature of psychosis and psychosis simulation in general and after studying the subject for seven years, I learned that there are some very important reasons why my curiosity was so passive, that I am not alone in having had difficulties understanding the extreme mental state, and that not only is help needed to understand psychotic experiences in the form of psychosis simulation, it is crucial.


LABYRINTH PSYCHOTICA is an artistic research project about the experience of psychosis. The project launches interactive platforms that transform the direct perceptions of the user into a simulation of psychosis. This allows one to experience, in a creative and engaged manner, how psychosis blends realities and perceptions.