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WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD

Photo: Johan Dehlin. 2020.
Exhibitions
08.04.2020-01.11.2020
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Skeppsholmen, Stockholm

WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD: An Exhibition About ASMR

ASMR 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. They do it by whispering or eating, touching or tapping, and more besides. This exhibition is the first dedicated to this feeling, and the emerging field of creativity that has grown up around it.

As little as a decade ago, ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) 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 favour of bodily ‘feels’.

Like meditation or yoga, ASMR happens to both your body and to your mind. It is not about speed, but about focus and slowness. ASMRtists1 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 intimacy2, 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 cue to its success, and to its transcendental appeal3.

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.

  • 1
    Photo: Maxence Rodier/Made in France ASMR. 2020.

    Made in France ASMR’s recording studio.

  • 2
    Photo: Marc Teyssier. 2020.

    ‘Artificial Skin for Mobile Devices’ (2019) by Marc Teyssier.

  • 3
    Photo: Bob Ross Inc. Used with permission.

    Purple Mountain Range (1992) by Bob Ross. Ross was an American painter, art instructor, and television host of The Joy of Painting (PBS, 1983-1994). ® Bob Ross name and images are registered trademarks of Bob Ross Inc.

In 2022, this exhibition opened in London at The Design Museum

Virtual vernissage of WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD, broadcast live on April 7, 2020.

SOFT GOSSIP by Claire Tolan

SOFT GOSSIP 4comprises two immersive sound performances: Many Tongues in the Evening: Chorus and One Tongue in the Morning: Meditation. Both performances explore themes of hospitality, riddles and gossip, as well as the discipline, intimacy, and close-contact of close-listening. The sunset performance on October 2, 2020 featured a whisper chorus while the sunrise meditation on October 3, 2020 was a solo performance.

Claire Tolan is an American artist and programmer living in Berlin. Since 2013, much of her work has emerged from the sounds of ASMR. Between 2014 and 2019, Tolan hosted You’re Worth It, the ASMR show on Berlin Community Radio. She has collaborated on recording and performance projects with artists such as Holly Herndon, Inger Wold Lund, Hanne Lippard, Camilla Steinum, and Susan Ploetz. Alongside Holly Herndon, Tolan is a participant of the exhibition WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD with the audio work Lonely at the Top from the album Platform (2015).

  • 4
    Photo: Klaudia Rychlik. 2020.

    “Lifting the sounds of ASMR out from the screen and into public space, the performances invite you to participate in an ineffable, effable, effanineffable conspiracy of togetherness.”

    Claire Tolan

Photo: Klaudia Rychlik. 2020. 'SOFT GOSSIP' by Claire Tolan.
Photo: Klaudia Rychlik. 2020. 'SOFT GOSSIP' by Claire Tolan.

Virtual ASMR with Melinda Lauw

In this performance, Melinda Lauw explores agency of the audience and subverts traditional subject-object relationships in ASMR through storytelling, DIY craft, and puppetry. Playing the role of a puppet master, Lauw turns ASMR trigger objects into living characters. The online audience is invited to be her assistant, making decisions on a new ASMR puppet that they co-create during the live broadcast5. The story includes a visit to a mysterious island and a tiff between Mother Brush and her new friend, a mischievous little horse.

Melinda Lauw is an artist, experience designer and immersive creator working across the fields of art, culture, immersive entertainment and experiential marketing. She is the co-founder of Whisperlodge ↗, a production company pioneering the practice of live ASMR. Since 2016, their hit immersive show has toured New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles and has been featured on Netflix and in The New York Times.

  • 5
    Photo: Melinda Lauw. 2020.

    Broadcast on October 24, 2020.

Film: Melinda Lauw Virtual ASMR with Melinda Lauw.
Photo: Elsa Soläng. 2020.

Plug-in Poetry

Plug-in Poetry, a mini-podcast series featuring contemporary Swedish poets ↗, created in conjunction with the exhibition in collaboration with Bon Magazine ↗.

Photo: Johan Dehlin. 2020.

Like meditation or yoga, ASMR happens to both your body and to your mind. It is not about speed, but about focus and slowness.

Archive of Feelings

Contribute ↗ to an anonymous archive6 of ASMR triggers. Your responses will become part of the Archive of Feelings, presented in the exhibition.

  • 6

    Created in collaboration with Are.na ↗ and developed by Charles Broskoski.

Collaboration

The exhibition features an Archive of Feelings ↗, created in collaboration with Are.na ↗. Plug-in Poetry ↗, a mini-podcast series with contemporary Swedish poets and their works, is a collaboration with Bon Magazine ↗. An Instagram face filter ↗ accompanies the exhibition, designed by Irene Stracuzzi × PostNew and developed by Lucia Tahan ↗.

Boxen at ArkDes

Boxen ↗ was a platform for fast-changing, experimental projects at ArkDes. It provided space for alternative voices to inspire discussions about architecture, design, and their relationship to society by promoting radical and responsive installations, exhibitions, events and dialogues by and between architects, designers, and thinkers. Designed by the emerging architecture studio Dehlin Brattgård ↗, Boxen opened in 2018 and was dismantled in 2023. All materials have been reused in the 2024 redesign of the museum’s spaces, designed by Arrhov Frick ↗.

Curator: James Taylor-Foster
Producer: Halla Sigurðardóttir
Exhibition Architects: ĒTER ↗
Graphic Design: Irene Stracuzzi ↗ × PostNew ↗
Installation: Markus Eberle, Stefan Mossfeldt with Simon Frid, Love Olsson, Vidar Ter Borch, Mikael Wettling
Producer (Programme): Elisabet Schön
Digital Communication: Justina Hüll
Translation: Astrid Trotzig

Production Team (Virtual Vernissage): Johan von Reybekiel, Andreas Holmgren, Erik Zidén, Viktor Annerstål
Developer (Archive of Feelings): Charles Broskoski ↗
Developer (Face filter): Lucia Tahan ↗
Curatorial/Production Team (Plug-in Poetry): Joakim Hultqvist, Justina Hüll, Esther Kirabo, Erica Lindberg, James Taylor-Foster

The exhibition title references the first online discussion about this sensation in 2007, later coined as “ASMR” by Jennifer Allen in 2010.