WASHINGTON — If you’re desperate to escape the chime of a new email, the headlines on the news or the constant hum of the city, head over to the Royal Netherlands Embassy. There, you’ll find “Silent Room.”
From the outside, the 40-foot-long structure looks like an ordinary black shipping container. Inside, it’s a different world, devoid of sound and color.
Simon Heijdens, 37, is the artist behind the installation, which he originally designed for the 2016 SXSW Festival.
“Obviously, Austin is a madhouse in that time of year. There is too much noise, too many people, too many smells, too much sight,” he said.
“I thought it would be nice to create a black hole inside that — somewhere where people can go inside, almost like a cold shower of silence.”
Heijdens worked with a team of acoustic engineers at the University of Texas to construct the padded, anechoic chamber that absorbs noise from the outside world. The result is complete, dead silence.
“I thought it’d be interesting to see, if in some situations it can be more powerful if you actually take something away, rather than add,” Heijdens said about his decision to build the room.
While the silence may signal peace for some, others are less comfortable with such an overwhelming lack of noise.
“Some people came out crying, some people came out laughing, some people came out cheering,” Heijdens said.
Reaction aside, the experience forces visitors to become aware of their presence and reflect on their response to the world around them.
“Silent Room” will be at the Netherlands Embassy (4200 Linnean Ave. NW) through Feb. 1. The exhibit is open to the public weekdays noon to 2 p.m. and weekends noon to 4 p.m. Visitors must email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.