An excursion into our contemporary culture of fear


Dries Verhoeven

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Visiting Phobiarama is an immersive excursion into our contemporary culture of fear. The Dutch theatre maker and visual artist Dries Verhoeven’s debut at the Holland Festival is a latter-day haunted house. Visitors encounter potential threats and societal paranoia. This presentation of supposedly hazardous objects gradually morphs into an oppressive experience. Phobiarama is Verhoeven’s latest ‘living installation’, in which he depicts a society obsessed with safety and perfection. Terrorists, marketeers and politicians shrewdly exploit this fear. Are we still able to keep a cool head?

Background information

Dries Verhoeven discerns a new theatre of fear in the tactics of terrorists, politicians and some media. Phobiarama, which will have its Dutch premiere at this year's Holland Festival, is his dramatization of their strategies in a 21st century haunted house. A sinister 

fairground attraction will be installed on Mercatorplein, where spectators will undergo an oppressive experience.

Verhoeven: 'Our fear receptors, the amygdalae, are located deep within our brain: these two nodules are responsible for processing frightening stimuli. They determine whether we fight or flee when confronted by a threat. The reaction is usually automatic, a reflex. Our amygdalae have been working overtime in recent years. Our continent has never been so safe, but we haven’t been this afraid for a long time. We’re continuously forced to distinguish between real threats and illusory doomsday scenarios. Politicians, marketers and terrorists deftly exploit our alert state of being. They focus very effectively on these fear receptors. That is what Phobiarama is about.

'I'm a great believer in camouflaging art, that is, art works that masquerade as something else. I hope a work will confuse and activate spectators and random passers-by. I'm presenting Phobiarama as a fairground attraction. The work initially sells itself as something attractive. Phobiarama is about the attraction of the shudder. Perhaps that's why we're so keen on watching terrifying news images. We exorcise our fears by looking them in the eye.'



Dries Verhoeven (1976) is a theatre maker and visual artist who makes installations, performances and happenings in museums, on location and in public spaces. In his work Verhoeven highlights aspects of the socio-political reality we live in. He came to fame in 2008 with his 

hotel-like installation with a giant mirror You are here (2007), which earned him the Montblanc Young Directors Award and the VSCD Mime Prize. He also made the museum exhibition of ants Homo Desperatus (2014) and disruptive installations in public spaces like Ceci n'est pas... (2013) - an exhibition of living people in glass cases - and Wanna Play? (Love in the Time of Grindr) (2014). He has worked for the Münchner Kammerspiele and his work has been exhibited at renowned festivals such as the Vienna Festival, Salzburg Festival and Lift London. Between 2002 and 2008 Verhoeven also worked as a scenographer. The world premiere of Phobiarama will be in May 2017 at The Onassis Cultural Center's Fast Forward Festival in Athens. After which Verhoeven will make his debut at the Holland Festival with this performance. 



Dries Verhoeven
Lara Staal
S.M. Snider
Michelangelo Hansen, Earl Daniel, Faiz Faouzi, Malcolm Pengel, Ozan Aydogan, Quincy Nelstein, Rodney Glunder, Rosario Roumou, Sohrab Bayat, Virginio Papa and Zouhair Mtazi
Studio Dries Verhoeven.
full credits