Review Dreammachine by Hanna Lyn Hughes

Dreamachine is a free immersive experience showing in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin as part of the Unboxed Festival. The idea for Dreamachine was conceived on a bus journey in 1959 when artist and inventor Brion Gysin described himself as experiencing intense hallucinations whilst falling asleep travelling down a tree lined road. It was the bright sunlight flickering in between the trees which induced this trance-like state and inspired Gysin to create the dreamachine in its original form; a light bulb within a cylinder with holes in it attached to a record player designed to be enjoyed at home with eyes closed. Producer and Director, Jennifer Crook and Assemble, an interdisciplinary collective working across architecture, art and design have collaborated alongside
a host of award winning contributors to bring this phenomenon to the masses, creating a unique and transformative experience like no other.

There is a form to fill beforehand and possessions
are to be stowed away in lockers. I’d recommend wearing comfortable warm clothing and consider matching socks as you’ll be asked to take your shoes off! We found our seats in the dark round space after a quick safety chat outside and were sensitively guided through a breathing exercise by a member of the dreamachine. The room grew darker as we synchronised our breath and became increasingly heavy eyed. Then, a light glowed overhead and gradually started to flicker as the room filled with atmospheric music, composed by Jon Hopkins. Despite the brightness of the light inducing a little anxiety at first, my curiosity confined me to my chair as I became increasingly transfixed by the kaleidoscopic patterns emerging in front of my eyelids.

As a dancer I often imagine choreography when listening to music, except in the Dreamachine it was overlaid beautifully by the captivating intricate patterns seen through my eyelids.

At this point, the music had built up to an encompassing
quake which vibrated the room and made for the most intense part of the multisensory experience. The vivid bursts of colour seen through the flickering bright light overhead shifted and warped as I drifted in and out of a transcendental state, almost as if what at first I felt I was observing was being moulded by my own imagination. I’ve never experienced anything like it; it was hypnotic, meditative and gripping all at once. As the music lulled and unwound, the light dimmed and we were in the dark again, ready to be led by the Dreamachine team through to a reflection space to discuss. The reflection room was just as enlightening as the experience as we discovered that although each participant had their own distinct experience, we shared no doubt that what we all saw was extraordinarily beautiful and thought provoking. There was a sensorial tool, a drawing table and a live generative visualisation, offering more private, creative and collective ways to reflect on a wholly unique experience based on individual preferences.


I gravitated towards the drawing table and enjoyed discussing the experience with the enthusiastic Dreamachine team whilst attempting to recreate the ornate patterns I saw with chalk on paper.

I left feeling contemplative and curious about
the miracle I’d just witnessed, or produced? Who knows! The Dreamachine is truly a miraculous and unforgettable spectacle that is not to be missed.

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