An artwork to be experienced with your eyes closed is launched

Published: 16 February 2022

Dreamachine is a powerful new kind of immersive experience exploring the limitless potential of the human mind.

An image of a woman sitting with her eyes closed surrounded by rainbow shafts of light. Image Credit Brenna Duncan

Dreamachine is a powerful new kind of immersive experience exploring the limitless potential of the human mind.

Created by Collective Act, it brings together Turner Prize-winning artists Assemble, Grammy and Mercury nominated composer Jon Hopkins, and a team of leading technologists, scientists and philosophers including UofG's Professor Fiona Macpherson.

It will be launched in London in May 2022, followed by presentations in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, commissioned and presented as part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK.

Professor Fiona Macpherson, Director of The Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience at the College of Arts, said: "In  my field of work I think about the nature of perception and illusion everyday. It has been great to employ my knowledge of these phenomena in collaborating with the artists, six musicians, designers and scientists that make up the Dreamachine team.

"I hope that the Dreamachine experience will make people think about the extraordinary power of their own minds and appreciate the truly puzzling nature of our consciousness.” 

Dreamachine is inspired by an extraordinary but little-known 1959 invention by artist–inventor Brion Gysin. His experimental homemade device used flickering light to create vivid illusions, kaleidoscopic patterns and explosions of colour in the mind of the viewer.

Designed to be the ‘first artwork to be experienced with your eyes closed’, Gysin had a vision for his invention to replace the TV in every home in America. Instead of passive consumers of mass-produced media, viewers of the Dreamachine would create their own cinematic experiences.

Over 60 years after its original invention, Collective Act has brought together an interdisciplinary team of leading minds in architecture, technology, music, neuroscience and philosophy to radically reimagine the

Dreamachine as a powerful new kind of collective experience; setting a precedent for new ways of collaborative working across the sciences and the arts to bring this ambitious idea to life.

Every experience of the Dreamachine will be completely individual. The kaleidoscopic world of the 21st-century Dreamachine will lead audiences through an immersive environment of light and sound, as vibrant and dazzling as any digital simulation, but created by and unique to you.

A rich and communal experience, this one-of-a-kind programme will provide audiences with an entirely new way of re-connecting with themselves, and each other. Dreamachine will be presented in London, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh between May and October 2022.

It is presented with Cardiff City Council, Northern Ireland Science Festival, W5 Belfast, Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Science Festival. Venues, dates and ticketing details will be announced in late March 2022.

Alongside the live experience, audiences across the UK will be invited to take part as active co-collaborators in one of the largest scientific research projects of its kind. Citizen science on an unprecedented scale, the ‘Perception Census’ will shine a light on a mystery that matters: the unseen diversity of the nation’s inner worlds.

A UK-wide schools programme developed by A New Direction in partnership with the British Science Association and UNICEF UK, will connect thousands of schools and pupils with the questions, ideas and themes explored through Dreamachine, inviting young people in every nation to join together to explore our most fundamental human connection: the wonder of how we see, and create, the world around us.


UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK

Dreamachine is one of 10 major creative projects commissioned as part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK.

The UK’s most ambitious showcase of creative collaboration - across science, technology, engineering, arts and maths - includes free large-scale events, installations and globally accessible digital experiences, and an extensive learning programme reaching millions of schoolchildren.

UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK is funded and supported by the four governments of the UK and is commissioned and delivered in partnership with Belfast City Council, Creative Wales and EventScotland.

The Collective Act Creative Team

The Dreamachine project is a collaboration between:

Assemble (interdisciplinary collective Turner Prize winners 2015);

Jon Hopkins (Grammy and Mercury nominated composer);

Jennifer Crook (Producer of the UK’s largest artworks by Danny Boyle and Jeremy Deller)

Christopher Shutt (Sound Designer, Winner of a Tony Award for War Horse)

Professor of Computational Neuroscience Anil Seth and Dr David Schwartzman (from the Centre for Consciousness Science, leading international researchers on consciousness, University of Sussex)

Dev Joshi (Technical Director, technologist behind Rain Room, Random International)

Professor of Philosophy Fiona Macpherson (Director of The Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience, University of Glasgow)

Holition (Award-winning Creative Technology Studio) A New Direction (Award-winning not for profit Education agency) Listings Information: Free tickets will be available to book via from late March 2022, when dates and venues across the UK will be announced

First published: 16 February 2022