Welcome to the pleasure zone

Is a new interactive installation at the ICA art or massage therapy? By Judith Palmer

GASTARBYTER, a new interactive installation at the ICA, may well be the best-value massage in town. It is the kind of thing you might expect to find in a dodgy Japanese executive hotel, but instead you can try out this particular sensory experience by booking yourself a 10-minute solo session in a darkened theatre.

This strange contraption has been developed by artists Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson with Dugal McKinnon, an electroacoustic composer, to create an auditory, visual and supremely tactile encounter.

Making my way through a gap in the black rubber awnings, I emerged in a spacious square chamber, with a large two-way mirror hung on each of its walls. Squatting like a mosquito in the centre of the floor is a steel chair, which judders on its springy joints as I climb aboard.

With my head snugly cushioned by a rubber headrest, arms and legs outstretched, a host of bouncy pads around the seat and back. Once in position, I am quite comfortable, although the initial mounting manoeuvre requires a level of mobility which dictates against wearing Rod Stewart-tight trousers or a thigh-high mini.

So, there you are, immobile in this contraption, remembering past trips to the dentist or gynaecologist, when the music begins and your chair starts spontaneously quivering. And, well - mmm, it is really rather pleasurable.

Four neon tubes in front of you, more on the edge of your peripheral vision, spring into fizzling life, triggered by the varying pitches of the enveloping soundscape. Flowing red lines zip on and off, occasionally turning blue, as the neon hits a pocket of mercury.

A low revving hum sends a brief tingle up one leg, a couple of deep bongs and your buttocks get a delicate pummelling, then, joy, a sustained vibro-massage of the lower back.

It is like sitting watching the dying glow of a four-bar electric fire with each foot on the pedal of an electric sewing machine, reverberations travelling up and down the body.

Lights and chair-sensors react in harmony with the shifting electronic noise, jiggle to a few short percussive tones, then surf down a long, mesmerising gong until you are literally inhabiting the interior landscape of the sound.

Suddenly, there is a change of tempo: the neon dances frantically and your whole body buzzes with vibration. This is probably how it feels to be a bluebottle frazzling on a kebab-shop insect-o-cutor.

In our increasingly visual culture, we are usually cut off from our proprioceptive powers. Unless you make a habit of standing on overhead motorway bridges or clamping yourself to the speakers at a Metallica concert, you very rarely get the chance to actually feel sound.

Gastarbyter, I assure you, is an infinitely more subtle alternative. As the Beach Boys had it. Good, good, good, good vibrations.

Institute of Contemporary Arts, London SW1. Bookable sessions available from 2pm to 4pm and 6pm to 8pm daily until Saturday 30 May (0171-930 3647).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

    Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Accountant

    £25000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?