“Iconoclash: Slow Squeeze”

Kieran Brunt (sound)

Animation (15 mins, looping)

ZKM Center for Art & Media Karlsruhe

Beyond Matter Residency Program
Creative Europe Program of the EU
German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media

ZKM Center for Art & Media Karlsruhe

A looping, 15 minute audio-visual experience, which experiments with the mechanisms of ASMR to create embodied experiences of inanimate objects and cultural artifacts.  

ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a sensory phenomenon with a growing online following. Indirect visual and auditory triggers, transmitted virtually through screens and headphones, and across distances, are able to trigger a deeply physiological response in the body: a spine-tingling, relaxing sensation which many describe as similar to being gently touched.

There are over 13 million ASMR videos on Youtube alone – of people gently whispering, chewing on pickles, shaving soap, and harnessing everyday household objects for their satisfying sound effects: sliding, squeezing, bending, tapping, brushing, scraping, slicing, crunching. Digital animations, too, are a medium favored by ASMRtists to create satisfyingly seamless and slow-moving visuals with exagerrated colours, materials and textures. 

The effects of ASMR are increasingly drawing the attention of psychologists and neurologists. Leading theories at the moment suggest that ASMR places the brain into a social state – similar as when primates groom one another. Studies show that ASMR happens not only to the brain, but also to the body: reducing heart rates and stress levels, while increasing skin conductivity – which creates a feeling of intimacy and closeness.

What are the possibilities for ASMR in the context of a museum? Or in the context of the climate crisis, with the ability of ASMR to create a deeply embodied sense of connection with distant ecologies, both past and present?