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Authorities close Downtown art installation blamed for seizures

| Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, 6:15 p.m.

Authorities temporarily shut down a room-sized art installation Downtown on Sunday night because three visitors reported having seizures inside since it opened Friday.

An 18-year-old woman was the latest to experience seizurelike symptoms Sunday afternoon inside the installation on Liberty Avenue, titled “Zee,” by Austrian artist Kurt Hentschlager. The woman was treated at the scene and released.

Hentschlager could not be reached.

District EMS Chief Paul Sabol said it was the third seizure reported at the gallery since the installation opened Friday.

Before entering, patrons must sign a waiver that describes the exhibit as “intense stroboscopic light in combination with thick artificial fog, resulting in a loss of spatial orientation.” The waiver says that the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the artist can't be held responsible for any injuries.

It warns visitors that anyone with a personal or family history of photosensitive epilepsy should not go inside, nor should patrons with breathing problems, heart problems, migraines, claustrophobia or anxiety. It says the fog isn't harmful, even at high levels of exposure.

Firefighters found no dangers when they measured the air quality, Sabol said.

The exhibit will be temporarily closed and changes could be made, Sabol said. He emphasized that not all visitors to the installation experienced symptoms.

“Zee” has been featured in Pittsburgh galleries other times, including an installation at the Wood Street Gallery in 2008 and in its current location next to the ToonSeum at 943 Liberty Ave. in 2009.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust spokeswoman Shaunda Miles said some patrons had seizures at the previous installations as well.

The installation is scheduled to remain until Oct. 27. Miles did not know when it might reopen.

Patrons and workers inside the fog-filled front room of the installation declined to comment.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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