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Joel Zika. A Southern Dark Ride

conference contribution
posted on 2020-11-08, 00:00 authored by Joel Zika
This paper discusses the unique practice-led research which led to the artwork A Southern Dark Ride. The
work was created on the site of a historic amusement park dark ride in the small town of Oxford,
Alabama. The work combined centuries old techniques with hands on experimentation with the apparatus
to create an original light-based artefact.
Dark rides are a type of media experience that has existed since the early stages of the 20th century, still
produced today at major theme parks with well-known themes such as the Ghost Train, Haunted Mansion
and Haunted Castle. The Dark Ride format has not been defined in academic discourse, whilst it is a wellknown
aspect of popular culture its history and impact on other media such as art and cinema has been
limited. This paper tracks the development of A Southern Dark Ride; a new media installation which utilises
a historic example of the format and shows the potential results for others in examining or using this
strange element of media history.
The artwork is the culmination of years of historic and field research examining primary examples of the
‘historic dark ride’ as well as secondary records of early iterations of the format. The practice-led
investigation engaged directly with an historic dark ride, exploring and reflecting on how the apparatus was
effective for creating an original creative experience.
The results show how a particular set of contemporary processes (projection, digital media, virtual reality)
can be interwoven with the characteristics of an indoor, darkened, track based ride.
This research draws on studies of early electric media and their influence on current creative approaches
by academics such as Peter Otto and Oliver Grau. New knowledge is created which adds the historic dark
ride to the constellation of historic media offerings for practitioners and researchers alike.



Dark Eden


University of New South Wales


University of New South Wales

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E3 Extract of paper

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Dark Eden

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