The idea for the Crook project came to her while attending a concert by Jon Hopkins, an electronic musician who also worked on the machine.
The science behind it relies on a theory coined by British neuroscientist William Gray Walter (1910-1977) called “flicker detection”.
He described how strong flickering lights can create visual hallucinations, which neuroscientists call stroboscopically induced.
According to his theory, the flickering of light imposes beats on the rhythm of the brain, especially its visual part.
What is happening in Dreamachine is that light is in training with this natural alpha rhythm of the brain. It is also a rhythm that we usually observe in the brain when people feel relaxed. And doing it the way I have to say, we still don’t understand completely, it leads to these vivid visual experiences that people have, ”says Anil Seth, a neuroscientist.
Dreamachine was inspired by the 1959 invention of artist Brion Gysin who used similar techniques to create kaleidoscopic visions.
Thanks to this experience, Seth hopes to understand more about our brains.
“The types of patterns that people see seem to be related in some ways to the deep wiring of their visual cortex. So, in a sense, it’s almost like the brain is revealing its own internal structure in our Dreamachine experiences,” says Seth.
The experience began with music composed by Jon Hopkins.
“So it was kind of composed in stereo style, and then we gradually mixed it up in different spaces over the last year on more and more speakers, and now it’s on 86 speakers in this space. So that’s the most impressive sound possible. I like working in stereo sound, moving on to it exponentially more than what you can play with. And being able to – it’s almost like you can build a sound palace that people come and experience. “
When participants enter, they get a blanket and ask to lie down on a sofa in a round room – designed by the Assemble collective – which can accommodate up to 30 people.
The session begins with a five-minute introduction, after which people are free to leave if the experience is too intense or they do not feel well. Applying an eye mask stops visual hallucinations.
The session can then be resumed and lasts approximately 20 minutes. The Associated Press was not allowed to record the actual strobbing experience.
“I mean, this Dreamachine is something I’ve never really experienced before. It was so intense. I feel like I went through something. Something I can’t explain. I saw strong lights, I saw very bright colored lights and then flickering patterns And sometimes I felt very anxious I felt my heart beating loudly in my chest The second time I felt pretty blissful and that is the difference between the two Sometimes I felt very heavy I sank into a chair The second time I felt it felt weightless, like they were lifting me up. It’s really weird, and I didn’t expect that at all, “says Tabish Khan, an art critic.
After the experience, the reflection space greets participants to discuss what they saw with staff members.
Some see individual blocks of color, others see tiny patterns.
They can also draw what they saw and answer the questionnaire on the tablets.
A strange experience that leaves people wondering: Is it art?
One of the best things about art is that it is not just researching what it is trying to tell you, but also what it is telling you about yourself, how you think about it and how you are interpreting it. And in this one it is very open to interpretation “says Khan.
The “Dreamachine” Collective Act runs from 10 May to 24 July in London and will also be available in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh as part of Unboxed, an art festival held across the UK.
The experience is free and available in two versions: high-sensory with stroboscopic lighting and deep listening, with gentle ambient lighting. Participants must be over 18 years of age and complete a health and safety questionnaire prior to the session.