Review Dreamachine, Temple of Peace by James Ellis

Photo credit: David Levene/The Guardian
 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Something trippy this way comes. Curiously, the Dreamachine from Assemble, is from the jarringly renamed Festival of Brexit in an attempt to blast away British sensibilities and open minds.

Arriving to the Temple of Peace, the staff were warm and welcoming. We popped our shoes off and entered the Greek like temple, now with the enclosure for the experience looking like a building from Mesopotamia. Our host, reassured us and wanted us to know what would occur, if anyone was in discomfort they could leave. I was looked after well, yet found myself nervous for the near ritual.

Artist Brion Gysin created a device which could stimulate the optic nerve, manipulating the brain’s electrical oscillations. This is the Dreamachine. Laying back and getting comfy there was a space age feel to it all. What could only be described as violently hallucinogenic, patterns and constructions formed with my closed eyes. With the lighting at break neck speed to help the trip along, it was an almost unbearable vision. I saw scribbles and prisms within always flowing and hyper coloured yantras. I wondered if this was what it was like to have synesthesia. The score by Jon Hopkins works well, though I think I craved something with a bit more bite from a composer dubbed the next Brian Eno.

Though a shared visitation, what you see is very much wired into your own body and mind. It’s easy to marvel at how the eye takes in light and how the brain processes this information. Some might dub this a religious encounter, others a journey into the psyche. The chance to draw what we saw after with pastels brought me back to childhood and gave us the complete rest bite from an intense journey. A round table was filled with people’s visual testimonies.

What must also be considered is the element of health and what people bring to Dreamachine. Those with mental and some physical health conditions may need to enquire if the show is right for them. I caught a strong headache after the fact, a bout of anxiety did wash over me for the start of the experience as well. It felt as if I was stuck halfway between 2001: A Space Odyssey and a Gaspar Noe film.

The main event it the High Sensory experience (what I saw) along with the more laid back and inclusive Deep Listening encounter. This wont be for everyone, but by golly will it arrest you.

Now on in Cardiff and London, in Belfast and Edinburgh this summer.

1 thoughts on “Review Dreamachine, Temple of Peace by James Ellis”

  1. Many thanks for the review of Dreamachine. Please note, UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK was not previously called the Festival of Brexit. The previous, temporary name was Festival UK* 2022 and UNBOXED was selected after the 10 projects involved were commissioned. More information about the programme, which includes several projects taking place in Wales, is on our website:

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