The internet phenomenon of ASMR comes to the Design Museum in a new exhibition called Weird Sensation Feels Good: The World of ASMR. Boasting content designed to stimulate the senses in the way only ASMR can, it promises to shed light on one of the online world's largest cultural movements.
Have you ever felt a shiver down your spine as you hear fingernails drumming on a table? Or felt an uncontrollable tingle in response to the rustling sound of paper being scrunched up? If so, then you've experienced the unique sensation of ASMR, or to give it its full name: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. And now, thanks to a mesmerising interactive space created by the Design Museum, you can explore the weird world of ASMR in person.
Launching on 13 May to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, the exhibition is the first of its kind to launch in the UK. Featuring works by Björk and world-renowned painter of happy little trees Bob Ross, the exhibition also includes a performative installation by Tobias Bradford, plus a new interactive commission by designer Marc Teyssier and viral works by YouTubers including The Slow Mo Guys.
In addition, visitors will be able to create their own ASMR in an interactive studio space designed by Julie Rose Bower. Presented in collaboration with ArkDes, the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design, the exhibition aims to be an immersive experience of the online phenomenon which has taken the world by storm.
Considering how stressful the internet can be at times (did someone say doomscrolling?), ASMR is a welcome tonic that brings a sense of deep calm to many people worldwide. All viewers have to do is fire up an ASMR clip on YouTube, pop in their earbuds, and let the sounds do their work. For ASMRtists, sounds such as whispering, eating and tapping are the equivalent of pencils and paintbrushes, and they use them to trigger tingling, relaxing feelings in their viewers.
But how does such a pioneering and unusual medium translate to a gallery space? The Design Museum has got that covered with a diverse range of works just waiting for you to dive into. Huge sections are dedicated to mesmerising 3D motion design, highlighting ASMR's close relationship with technology. Paintings that correspond to The Joy of Painting episodes, presented by 'The Godfather of ASMR' Bob Ross, will also be exhibited for the first time in the UK.
As if that wasn't enough to get your senses tingling, mysterious objects that define ASMR will be exhibited. These include a salivating tongue by artist Tobias Bradford and researcher Marc Teyssier's prototype of an artificial skin for a mobile device. Squidgy, repulsive, and strangely compelling, these groundbreaking works help to blur the line between digital spaces and the outside world.
And seeing as ASMR can be a full-body experience, it makes sense that the ASMR Arena lets you fall into this weird world completely. Made up of a continuous pillow, this structure plays a selection of audio-visual works to tickle your body and your brain cells. You'll also learn how ASMR triggers reactions thanks to case studies of viral examples of unintentional ASMR, such as hushed words from Björk, woodblock carving, and footage of intricate beadwork at the V&A.
Intentional ASMR gets a look in, too, with examples of specialist ASMR content from around the world. "Expect to see an instructional ASMR baking video, traditional wet-shaving in a Japanese barbershop, and dogs getting haircuts in a Korean dog grooming salon," says the Design Museum. "Also featured are examples commissioned by IKEA and Virgin Atlantic, showing how ASMR techniques are used to make soothing content in a commercial context."
Ready to feel everything ASMR has to offer? Book your tickets now.