One of Belfast’s oldest former churches has been transformed into a powerful new immersive art experience for the next six weeks.
Carlisle Memorial Church has become the latest venue in the UK to host Dreamachine, where audiences lie down and close their eyes for a sound and white light performance.
The experience was described as both very personal and collective, with each participant seeing something different, before having the opportunity as a group to share what they saw through words and drawings.
Some report seeing a kaleidoscope behind their closed eyes, others describing a rainbow of different colors, shapes, scenes reminiscent of a sepia film, and the dappled effect of sunlight on water.
The free experience follows sold-out shows in Cardiff and London, and takes place in Belfast from July 25 to September 4.
It was created by Collective Act, bringing together Turner Assemble Award-winning artists, Grammy and Mercury-nominated composer Jon Hopkins, and a team of technologists, scientists, and philosophers.
Dreamachine is commissioned and presented as part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK.
Jennifer Crook, director of Collective Act, said the experience is best described as it cannot be described.
“The Dreamachine is a work of art that you experience with your eyes closed, but it’s completely different for everyone because the experience is generated by your brain, it’s different even every time you come,” said she declared.
“It’s like a light show, but inside your mind. You might see colors, patterns and shapes. Some people see lots of kaleidoscopes, others see real-world scenes, almost dreamlike scenes, but you won’t know until you see for yourself.
It is inspired by a 1959 invention by artist-inventor Brion Gysin.
“The original dreamachine was a very rudimentary device, a patterned cylinder that you put on a record player, hooked a light bulb inside, and it spun and flickered. It’s doing it on a much larger scale but also as a collective experience,” Ms Crook said.
“What we’ve seen on tour in the UK this summer are really incredibly rich deep experiences that range from joy, sometimes sadness. It depends on what the person brings with them.
“One of the most beautiful parts of the project is the drawing table, it is the space where you are invited to reflect on your experience, to draw or write it down or even just to discuss it with others. people around the table.
“You never know what people are going to say, you never know what they’ve seen and it’s a never-ending fascinating conversation to listen to and learn about people’s experiences.”
Ms Crook said that ultimately she would like to travel the world and see how she is received in different cultures.
Sam Hunt, director of the UNBOXED: Creativity program in the UK, described a “collective experience that you have on your own”.
“It’s something you share with people in space, but it’s absolutely unique to you,” he said.
“UNBOXED is 10 very large-scale commissions taking place across the UK this year, but many of them are based on the idea of a collective experience of thousands of people coming together or witnessing something.
“But it’s totally unique, and what’s really special is the opportunity to experience something really new, and I think it’s done.”