OBSERVATIONS FROM A SENSORY EXPERIMENT
–Words by the sense-whisperers

Sense-Whisperers are the soul of Sensory Experiments. Without their enlightened knowledge, many rituals, symbols and natural stimuli intrinsic to the Experiments might have been lost to the passage of time.

These are the awakened few; they are truly attuned to their sensorial power and know its fullest pleasures. Sense-Whisperers are not conducting Experiments, rather, they are facilitating participants’ interaction with and experience of each Sense-Scape at Sensory Experiments.

At Sensory Experiments, the Sense-whisperers recorded an observatory response to participant’ actions within the sense-scape NATURE. Here is an extract of those observations. 

Photo Carmen Zammit

14:00 Isabel

As if on cue, a single petal falls just one beat before the first participant arrives. He's hesitant, guarded by the phone he holds out before him, walking and viewing the sense-scape through the lens. Finding he is the only person he quickly back-tracks out to where he came from.

The first few to sit down in the pews seem to be seeking refuge; a number of seated pairs form, careful not to make a sound. The live music in the cool, dark cavernous space, alive with visual floral drama, commands participants' attention.

The music halts and no person claps. not even a breath is heard.

The musicians depart. People seem unsettled, uncertain. It is as if the music had anchored the moment. Some get up to take a second edible. Others allow themselves to get closer to observe the flowers.


15.00 Isabel

A couple seated in front of an installation hold hands and close their eyes. He opens his eyes and takes extreme close ups of flowers and their petals, then a selfie of himself and his companion. He now points his camera at me, the scribe, in my elevated position in the pulpit. He appears to reconsider and I don't think he took a photo of me.

The difference in the mood of the chapel, to the first session, is palpable. There seems a sense of gratefulness, and a total willingness to be taken and delivered to some place supra-sensual, or spiritual.

The piano finishes and a spell is broken. Some participants inhale deeply and start to wander out. A young woman creeps around a floral installation slowly, beckoning to her friend with an incredulous, appreciative look on her face.

She shakes her head and sighs so as to indicate the unbelievable magnificence of the thing.


16.00 Amara 

Rhythmic drumming echoes through the membranes of the room - the soft call of a distant bird reverberates, almost shockingly, from somewhere in the dark corners of a forgotten lull in the space. The keys sound, eyes fall toward the instrument as it beats out a tune, with cadence, with harmony.

Light washes the room, ephemeral particles spinning in a haze that slashes across the pews; warming the complexion of a fair beauty. He sits astride her, delicately touches her shoulder. Her eyes are closed, she lets the harmony overcome her, a slight smile curls on the corner of her mouth.

The labyrinth of pews are obstacles to experience, but unintentionally rewarding ones. Once the thread of timber has been overcome and one comes face-to-face with the flora-jungle, there is a sense of release. A pause in the worship of incomparable beauty. A reckoning of the Sublime.

Instruments of old here compete with the technologies of today. A nose - pushed within the abundant tumbles of natural delight, drawing in, consuming, every iota of beauty the bouquets have to offer - is triumphant over the phone, which nearly always is secondary to the experience.


17.00 Amara

Those souls oft-forgo their phones. Digital-immersion suspended for a more natural, intrinsic type of appreciation.

Tilted, these participants sit with their heads lightly tilted. Toward what? A scene within a wave length privileged only to those willing for release? A sound lingering somewhere within a space we cannot hear? An aroma that escapes the senses of those of us busying-ourselves with daily distractions?

Visitors are coaxed into contemplation by the melody. Ushering themselves quickly within their self-assigned state of contemplation. Breathing more heavily, taking in the perfumed air that hangs like a veil across the room.

Overcome by an unkempt kind of natural beauty, their ritualistic purpose has been replaced by something that feels a little wild and curiously profound. Alone in the space, without the fear of inhibitions or the threat of judgement, a remaining collective of comrades joyously wander throughout the space.



18.00 Joshua

Inferno tingles across the air, a swirl of strings emanating from the center. My body is the vessel but the sea is what surrounds me, in this old place where tide-walkers come to settle their weary bones.

A sea of synapses drinking from the actions of others, intermingling fingertips creating sound, piano keys, the drums in the distance; fingertips dabbing scent into wrists; offering taste in shells.

Finally, a place where my senses can soar through the darkness of the canvas that has always surrounded me.

Corkscrewing, spiraling, unraveling from the streams of scent renders something else from the darkness. A vibration gathers strength and renders blood and bone into being: touch and smell have found another friend.

But I cannot linger here too long. The drums call me out again. I raise myself up and am guided to a wall. Fingertips gripping chalk. I leave another of my marks, scrolling the shape of letters into the skin of the old building. Letters of confession, letters made of stalks and fronds and curves. How do I feel, really?

19.00 Joshua

The pews are stocked with souls of a contemplative nature; the light barely strokes them.

The music rises. A man cradles his head by his hand, fist to cheek, pressed and listening. Some still hold their devices dear. The music takes a moment to pause, to breath. White petals dot the red rug that plummets down the center of the chapel. Light beams caramel onto the bright faces of the roses in their armies. A bowl filled with water and home to a goldfish sits on a pew, the creature's memory refreshed anew at each turn.

Everything is still. Waiting. Even the goldfish seems to have paused. But for a quick flick of his tail. Ah, some new faces! A couple come in following their noses, taking to the bouquets face first. The crackle of applause pops outside and another gentleman enters. There is life returning to the chapel. The couple are moving from bunch to bunch, and girl pointing to her partner. 'Smell these ones!"

20.30 Natalie

The flowers are illuminated. Each participant creates their own can shadow. Each electronic device lights up the room; are we ever truly disconnected?

The room fills up as the musicians enter. I notice they are playing a piece from Schindler's list. Some people watch, some people close their eyes. Some people clutch their hearts; others their belongings; we are safe.



Sensory Experiments

Sensory Experiments was a studio-led experiential event that wholly embraced the provocative power of the world around us, enjoyed by over 350 people as part of Melbourne Design Week 2019.

In this fully immersive experience, through three distinct Sense-Scapes, visitors were offered interactive performance, and confrontation with tastes, scents, textures, spatial constructs and collective practices. They helped create the Manifesto for Sensory Intelligence – a record of sensorial responses to the stimuli-saturated Sense-Scapes.


View more at sensoryexperiments.com


DIAZ DAVIS acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live, create, and work. We pay our deepest respects to the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past, present and future.

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