- Design Team:Dagnija Smilga, Kārlis Bērziņš, Niklāvs Paegle, Emīls Garančs
- Clients:ARKDES, The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design
- Curator:James Taylor-Foster
- Exhibition Producer:Halla Sigurðardóttir
- Exhibition Architecture:Dagnija Smilga, Kārlis Bērziņš, Niklāvs Paegle
- Graphic Design:Irene Stracuzzi ✕ PostNew
WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD is the first museum exhibition dedicated to ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). It is, by extension, exploring emerging forms of wellness and tries to find ways to share this experience in a public setting (i.e. a museum). The exhibition seeks to bring both the body and mind to a state of comfort and higher sensitivity in order for visitors to experience tactile and audio-visual stimuli.
The architecture of the exhibition is an attempt to synthesize the creative field of ASMR and its rich material world into a legible spatial language. The most common experience of ASMR is privately, perhaps in a bedroom, where a person might feel most calm and protected. Drawing inspiration from traditional spa cultures, flowing water is replaced by streams of contemporary media, aiming to create an atmosphere of safety and privacy in public, in which multiple people can be triggered to relax simultaneously. The exhibition design offers an acoustically-tempered environment, allowing guests to be immersed in a multisensory experience of close-looking, close-listening, and close-feeling.
An important idea explored by the exhibition is the relationship between technology and the human body in material and tactile form – “the apparent sensitivity of technology” – which manifests itself in the architecture of the exhibition. The walls of the Boxen merge with the floor by way of soft folding biomorphic pillows. These pillows resemble the inner tissue of the body, the folds of the brain, audio cables, and erratic waveforms. Video works are suspended from the ceiling as “TV chandeliers”, out of which gentle, silicone dipped hands reach out to serve headphones.
Upon entering the exhibition, the floor of Boxen appears as if it has been melted. Guests take off their shoes and are invited to wear a bathrobe as they step onto the metallic ‘spill’. The double aisle set-up of the space allows for visitors to observe one another, creating a scene for live ASMR performances. While guests find the most comfortable spots to sit or lie on the soft aisles, ASMRtists become the new masters of the ceremony. The exhibition, therefore, becomes a prototype for a new kind of public synthetic spa, offering an emergent form of relaxation and catering to the current collective concerns of the need to avoid physical touch and shared spaces.
Some of the key production processes took place in the Northern Baltics: the hands were 3D printed in Cēsis and silicone-dipped in Sigulda. Unbleached and undyed textile is raw fiber cotton terry, which has a natural off-white texture. The textile for the 1km-long pillow was woven in Pärnu and sewn in Cēsis.
About the exhibition. ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a term that describes a physical sensation: euphoria or deep calm, sometimes a tingling in the body. In recent years an online audience of millions has grown, dedicated to watching the work of designers and content creators who try to trigger this feeling in their viewers.
As little as a decade ago, ASMR was largely dismissed as a figment of the imagination. Today the term represents one of the largest movements on the Internet, and it has become impossible to ignore. As academic institutions around the world seek to make sense of the phenomenon, creatives—known as “ASMRtists”—are building on a cultural movement that transcends language and culture in favor of bodily ‘feels’.
Like meditation or yoga, ASMR happens to both your body and your mind. It is not about speed, but about focus and slowness. ASMRtists do not seek to entertain but to relax; for experiencers, it offers a degree of insulation from a noisy, wandering world. Through sound and film, shared through broadcasting platforms such as YouTube, works of ASMR make room for close-looking, close-listening, and close-feeling. ASMR injects the Internet with softness, kindness, and empathy. As a form of digital intimacy, it offers comfort on demand, standing against the feeling of isolation that constant connectivity can deceptively breed. Anecdotally, ASMR is being used as a form of self-medication against the effects of loneliness, insomnia, stress, and anxiety. This is a clue to its success, and to its transcendental appeal.
WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD is the first exhibition of its kind to lift ASMR out from your screen and into public space. Step into an acoustically tuned environment and understand how people are deploying new and existing tools and materials to negotiate a complex world.