A Terrifying Election Season Gets The Haunted House It Deserves

Something anxiety-inducing this way comes.

Halloween is fast approaching, but it’s a date a week later–November 8–that has everyone spooked. As Mexico City-based artist Pedro Reyes suggests in his new exhibition Doomocracy, this year’s presidential election has made reality a lot more frightening than fake gore and staged horrors.


This month Reyes, in collaboration with the New York arts nonprofit Creative Time, has transformed part of the Brooklyn Army Terminal into a 13-room “political house of horrors”–a labyrinthine exhibition that contains such real-life terrors as climate change, childhood obesity and systemic gun violence. In rooms elaborately designed to match our collective political anxieties, Reyes plays off of a Presidential election that’s gotten scarier and scarier as the months roll toward November, for people on both sides of the aisle. As he puts it, “For most people in New York City, the election is the thing that keeps them awake at night.”

[Photo: Will Star/Shooting Stars Pro]

In a word, what we’re experiencing is a “Doomocracy.” From the Creative Time website:

Doom-oc-ra-cy (dü-ˈmä-krə-sē), n.
1. A form of government in which the supreme power is vested in a tyrant by a terrified general electorate. 2. The esoteric arithmetic that makes the electoral process malleable. 3. A corporate coup d’état in slow motion. 4. Permanent global war waged in the name of freedom. 5. A house of political horrors at the Brooklyn Army Terminal from Oct. 7 to Nov. 6.

Reyes has a history of tackling political and social issues into his works. In his 2008 Palas por Pistolas for example, he challenged gun culture in Culiacán, Mexico, by melting down guns there to turn into shovels–which he then used to plant trees around the world. In 2011, he took on the state of mental health treatment by inviting visitors to sign up for a “temporary clinic” in his piece Sanatorium, then offered therapies such as trust-building games and hypnosis.

Doomocracy is similarly large-scale and immersive, involving various actors that play theatrical roles in a guided tour through the political hellscape. In Sugar Coffins, for example, a musician in a burgundy suit plays funeral music beside a coffin decorated like a sprinkle donut, Lynch-ian velvet curtains enveloping the small room. It reflects the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in this country, says Reyes, as well as diabetes and our addiction to processed foods. Spookier still: Michelle Obama is no where in sight. Other pieces include a spare voting room with a creepy voting volunteer, where attendees can fill out fictional ballots, as well as a Space Age-y room full of dysfunctional technology–lampooning our reliance on tech. Reyes and his team spent months decking out the Army Terminal to stoke our greatest fears.

It may be a spectacle, but not an unfamiliar one–which speaks to something people have been saying more and more as this election cycle nears to a close: truth really is stranger than fiction.


About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.