September was a very busy and wildly creative month for me. While I got involved in many design and making project, I haven’t really had time to record my process or reflect on it in written form. So the next few posts will each take up one or more of these projects and describe what they are.
Important Note: This post is about an object that can be dangerous to use for people with epilepsy. If you decide to make or use a Dreamachine or a similar device please make sure you are not epileptic and warn people that using it might cause fits in people with epilepsy.
The first project is a remake of the Dreamachine, a brain stimulation machine originally made by artist Brion Gysin and technician Ian Sommerville. I came to know about this project from a Canadian movie called Flicker by Nik Sheehan. The idea behind Dreamachine is extremely simple: create a flickering source of light, if you set it to the right frequency and sit and look at it with closed eyes, you see visualizations and might actually go into a dream state, not unlike one induced by meditative visualizations or mild drugs.
Frankly, I was not very impressed with the movie or the endless fringe celebrity comments about the Dreamachine (most of them in the “oh, it’s so cool!” category!) that formed the bulk of the movie. But I was intrigued by a suggestion on the film’s website about making one of these machines at home via recycling broken gramophones. I love tinkering with “found” and nostalgic objects and this was a golden opportunity.
A friend had already given a broken record player to my brother. The idea was to have a source of light in the middle of a cylinder that would be mounted on the gramophone and move with it. The cylinder would have large patterned holes in it that would let the flickering light out. One would sit in front of this contraption and close his or her eyes. Somehow, the idea of creating the cylinder from scratch (either metal or cardboard) was not appealing to me. Then, I found a beautiful hand-made Syrian candle holder on the street. The size of the base was perfect and once placed on the gramophone it made a beautiful Dreamachine.
I decided to go for LED flashlights mounted on a stick rather than candles for safety and, voila, the Dreamachine was complete. Here’s what the final object looks like: