In an ironic turn of events, the threat of the novel coronavirus has forced Sweden’s national center for architecture and design to move WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD, what was supposed to have been an in-real-life manifestation of ASMR, totally online.
The exhibition was originally supposed to have run in ArkDes’s experimental Boxen, an enclosed gallery within the Stockholm gallery’s main space. ASMR—Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, scalp tingles caused by whispering, lip smacking, crinkling, and other quiet, close sounds—is typically thought of as an internet phenomenon, thanks to the popularity of YouTube videos and communities that share material. The main conceit of the James Taylor-Foster-curated WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD was to translate the digital into the physical through design; a concept now flipped yet again, as the exhibition is fully accessible online.
ArkDes kicked off the show on April 7 with an interactive, virtual private tour (viewable here) and interviews with “ASMRtists” PierreG ASMR, WhisperingLife ASMR, UNO ASMR, Life with MaK, ASMRctica, FredsVoice ASMR, MissASMR, anoASMR, and Made in France ASMR. After the interview, viewers were guided through the exhibition, complete with splicing in of video clips from the show, and Taylor-Foster took questions from the audience. The stream offered viewers a chance to ask clarifying queries about what ASMR is, how advertising influences (and disrupts) ASMR videos, and for more information about binaural, or 3D, audio.
A major theme of the show is the confluence between technology and the human form, and the exhibition design from architecture studio ĒTER lines Boxen’s walls with squiggly, waving biomorphic forms reminiscent of intestines, brain folds, audio cables, and erratic waveforms. “Intentional” ASMR, like the work made by the artists mentioned above, sits alongside “unintentional” ASMR as well; clips of Bob Ross painting, a soft-spoken Björk interview, and other examples of videos that trigger an involuntary response, despite it not being their intention.
While WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD was originally slated to run April 8 through May 31, the digital version is now slated to be open from May 15 through November 1.