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).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Agency Administrator

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Network Support Engineer is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Director - Tech Startup - Direct Your Own Career Path

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Telephone Sales Advisor - OTE £35,000

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telephone Sales Advisor is re...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent