Welcome to the pleasure zone
Is a new interactive installation at the ICA art or massage therapy? By Judith Palmer
Wednesday 27 May 1998
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).
Life & Style blogs
WWE 2K15 gameplay trailer: First look at Sting, Triple H and Daniel Bryan in next-gen graphics
iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install the update
iPhone 'Wave': iOS 8 hoax claims you can charge your iPhone in the microwave - you can't
First day of Autumn: Google Doodle celebrates 2014 Autumn equinox
What does human meat taste like?
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
- 2 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...
£20 - £25 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curren...
£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...