London's Design Museum Delves into the World of ASMR

London's Design Museum Delves into the World of ASMR

05/11/2022

London’s Design Museum has collaborated with the ArkDes centre in Stockholm, Sweden to present the UK’s first-ever exhibition dedicated to the sensory phenomena of ASMR. Looking at the subject from a design angle, the show digs deep into the rise of ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) by examining its different forms, profiling those who pioneered its huge online community and encouraging visitors to experience the effects it can have on the body and mind.

“The world of ASMR is a community, a culture, and a creative field,” said the show’s curator, James Taylor-Foster. “In this sense, it’s a real site of imagination within an emergent field that acknowledges the internet as a territory for design.”

Located in the basement gallery of the museum, the show opens with a section dedicated to visual ASMR. 3D motion design videos by Copenhagen studio Wang & Söderström are paired with a soundscape, while a dedicated, moodily lit room offers a plush place to sit while clips of Bob Ross painting play in the background. Original works by Ross – dubbed the “Godfather of ASMR” – are mounted on the wall, depicting snowy mountain scenes and idealistic countryside views.

While Ross may have pioneered the movement without even knowing – his popular show Painting With Bob Ross first aired in 1983 – it’s the Youtube “ASMRtists” who have propelled it into the public domain. Some of these creators are profiled in the exhibition across a display of three screens, on which they give their own definitions of ASMR to camera.

Towards the back of the exhibition is a disturbingly life-like contraption designed by Tobias Bradford sees a wet, pink-coloured rubber tongue move up and down via a robotic system he has devised. Nearby are Marc Teyssier’s “Voice of Touch” and “Articifical Skin for Mobile Devices”. The latter is essentially exactly how it is described – a skin-like surface for our tech objects, whereas the former is more complex. As a user pinches or touches the piece of silicone “skin”, a vocal burst appears in response.

A show about ASMR wouldn’t be complete without a space for audience participation, and the curatorial team enlisted the expertise of researcher Julie Rose Bower to create a live studio space in which visitors can make their own experiences in five installations.

The entire exhibition is centred around an “ASMR Arena”. Inside here, squishy cushioned surfaces resembling the surface of a brain extend up the sides of a metal frame, inviting visitors to lay back and watch the videos on screens around the space. From Björk giving a description of how a television works (1988), to the first whispering video ever uploaded to Youtube (2009), the videos offer a wide-ranging survey of what the curators describe as “intentional ASMR” – defined as a practice that “can be triggered by personal attention and direct engagement”.

“Weird Sensation Feels Good: The Wonderful World of ASMR” runs from May 13 to October 16 at the Design Museum in London.

In other design news, footwear brand Merrell is tasking UK-based architects and designers to come up with a design for a “beacon” for the UK’s most remote island.

Design Museum
224-238 Kensington High St,
London W8 6AG

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