Weird sensation feels good: the World of ASMR. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) really is a thing. It’s the sounds that make our ears prick up, or skin tingle or cause hairs to rise up. A fabulous show at the Design Museum in London shows us the mesmerising power of surprising and everyday sounds.

Yes, this is a painting by the American artist Bob Ross. We see him a lot on BBC 4 in the early evening. What I hadn’t realised about this charming show with the shuddery camera work is that we are being influenced by the impact of ASMR of both an aural and visual kind. We watch with fascination as Bob scrapes paint onto canvas with a palette knife or whispers to us as he dabs and daubs paint with a brush to create the highlights of a fir tree or scrapes back paint with the tip of his brush to create little lines which depict branches. The finished paintings are quite chocolate-boxy in style but very expertly done. It was a pleasure to see three examples of his paintings close up. Chatting to this show’s curator, James Taylor-Foster, at the press preview, he told me that Bob Ross created every painting in exactly 26 minutes. He created one painting for reference (glancing at it as he is filmed) another for the camera and a third, immediately afterwards which was photographed for a book about his art. I was riveted.

The show invites you to listen to earphones and hear a wide variety of sounds created by ASMR experts. For example little taps, scrunching a plastic bag, hearing rain on a roof are all sounds which give pleasure. Some people can whisper in a compelling way or simply speak within a timbre, generally quiet, which makes us sit up and pay close attention. Being told a story, no matter how rambling, can be a pleasure if the speaker’s voice is sonorous, warm and attractive.

Then there are sounds made by objects. I did enjoy dropping a coin into a round box and hearing the satisfying whirr as it went round and round before clattering into the well at the bottom. All children love marble games for the same reason.

Being a paper collage artist I’m for ever ripping and snipping paper. Well guess what, the sound of paper tearing or being carefully cut with scissors is one of those sounds. I’ve alway thought my art was a kind of meditation and now I know why.

Because this show was more about sound than images I don’t have that many images to post here but I do recommend this exhibition. It is a pleasurable experience and, in a room filled with big, baggy worm-like beanbags to loll upon, there are good reasons for staying there a while and simply immersing yourself in a relaxing experience.

On show at the Design Museum from 13th May.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s