Dreamachine is a major interdisciplinary programme fusing world class artists with leading academic researchers. In a unique collaboration, our team of artists, composers, technologists, scientists and philosophers set out to explore and chart our inner worlds, with the aim of sparking insight, reflection and curiosity. Created by Collective Act, the programme includes a ground-breaking scientific study investigating perceptual diversity and a 5* reviewed immersive experience, designed to take audiences on a magical journey into their own minds.
Unlike many immersive works of scale or spectacle, the kaleidoscopic world created by the Dreamachine comes from within. Designed by Turner-prize winning artists Assemble, with a score composed in 360° spatial sound by Grammy nominated composer Jon Hopkins, the experience generates a luminous world of colours, patterns and dreamlike imagery behind closed eyes – all conjured by just white light. As you enter the Dreamachine, you are invited to leave the outside world behind. Like a modern campfire, the experience is held in the round, and as you close your eyes, a bath of light and sound weave seamlessly together to generate a richly technicolour internal world – created by the power of your own brain and completely personal to you.
Dreamachine is inspired by an extraordinary but little-known flickering light device invented in 1959 by artist Brion Gysin. His pioneering vision was to replace the television in every home in America: instead of passive consumers of mass-produced media, viewers of the Dreamachine would create their own cinematic experiences. He died before his vision could be realised, but the idea of using technology to reconnect us with our inner selves remains just as radical, and relevant, today.
Dreamachine is the first time in the world the phenomenon of stroboscopically-induced visual stimulation has been explored on such a scale. The frequency of the flickering light imposes a ‘beat’ on the rhythms of the brain, similar to the ‘alpha’ rhythm – the brain waves normally present when we’re awake, but relaxed. Even with the tools of modern neuroscience, the question of how the phenomenon gives rise to such vivid experiences is still unanswered. Our research team at the University of Sussex, led by Cognitive Neuroscientist Professor Anil Seth, are now exploring what insights this mystery might reveal about the origin of consciousness.
In 2022, Dreamachine celebrated four sold-out shows across the UK. Designed to create emotional connection, with creative tools for writing, drawing, reading and conversation, many visitors to the Dreamachine describe profound and transformative responses. To date, over 20,000 people have created illustrations of their experience, producing one of the largest collections of publicly generated artworks in the world. Tens of thousands of colours have been reported, with many witnessing colours they have never seen before. Many blind and partially-sighted people even described seeing colour for the first time.
Dreamachine engaged over a million people across the UK in 2022, attracting over 500 features, and numerous 5* reviews, including within The Guardian, New Scientist, and the BBC. But it was so much more than a media hit. Like a secular temple, the experience offered a rare space for shared reflection – a safe place for audiences to reconnect with themselves, and each other, in new and surprising ways. From 2024, the experience will tour internationally, with enquiries from over 40 cities, in 25 countries, across 6 continents – and counting.
Beyond the confines of language or theory, Dreamachine engages audiences across ages, boundaries, countries and cultures as co-collaborators in creating a new library of human experience. It is a welcome reminder that whilst technology advances, the most complex tool on the planet is the human brain itself. The experience provides an insight into the everyday miracle of consciousness.
Jennifer Crook, Director
Assemble, Spatial Designers
Jon Hopkins, Composer
Dev Joshi, Technical Director
Chris Shutt, Sound Designer
Holition, Creative Technology Studio
Professor Anil Seth, Scientist
Dr David Schwartzman, Scientist
Professor Fiona Macpherson, Philosopher
Studio ZNA, Lighting Designer