Based on a little-known 1959 invention by the artist–inventor Brion Gysin, Dreamachine has been turned into something of an artistic experiment by director Jennifer Crook together with the producer of large-scale participatory commissions Collective Act. Part of Dreamachine is to set out to study our minds by flickering lights on our closed eyes.
‘The world we experience,' professor Anil Seth, the neuroscientist who contributed to the project tells us, 'comes as much from the inside than from the outside: it is a construction of the brain that is using the information from our senses. Things like colours don’t exist independently from the mind. What we experience depends largely on the brain and we don’t all have the same brain.’
The Dreamachine space itself is dark and looks like the lounge corner of a nightclub. It has been designed by Turner Prize-winning artists Assemble, with a circular and reclined sofa, a luminous ceiling, soft blankets, which is to be experienced with a surround-sound score composed by Grammy-nominated composer Jon Hopkins.
Together with our fellow Dreamachine guinea pigs, we're taken through some breathing exercises and then we close our eyes. Will we manage to let go and get the most of this allegedly trippy experience, we wonder?
And so it starts: as flickering lights start flashing on our closed eyes we see some amazing things: vivid colours, patterns, movements… it is indeed a psychedelic journey of bright blues, yellows, oranges. It feels like we are in a Sonia Delaunay painting or travelling through space. The music gets louder, the lights rise and then begin to strobe. Clouds of colours fill our vision; can we see planets? It feels intense, overwhelming and then it simply becomes beautiful, perhaps divine.
How long did we stay in Dreamachine? We lost track of time. Did we all see the same things? Still feeling dizzy, we are invited to share our experiences outside. We all saw similar patterns and colours but we felt quite differently emotionally. Some felt awe, others calm, others happiness, others anxieties, others grief.
On leaving, we realise we're tempted to go back and experience Dreamachine again. Could it be addictive?
One thing is for sure: beauty is inside our minds.
|What||Dreamachine, Woolwich Public Market review|
|Nearest tube||Woolwich Arsenal (underground)|
09 May 22 – 24 Jun 22, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM