Hearing colours, discovering how the London Underground tastes, seeing the world through the eyes of a dragonfly, listening to Bradford’s hidden city sounds: just some of the extraordinary experiences on offer at the National Science and Media Museum this summer.
The family exhibition Supersenses (15 July – 8 October 2017, free entry) will challenge and tantalise visitors with unusual sights, sounds, tastes, and smells, as it explores many different ways the world can be perceived.
It features brand new work by acclaimed television sound recordist Chris Watson (Springwatch, The Life of Birds, Frozen Planet), Noise Orchestra and Alan Dunn, plus installations by artists Di Mainstone, Zane Berzina, and creative studio Marshmallow Laser Feast. Rarely seen inventions from the Science Museum Group collection will also demonstrate some of weird and wonderful ways people have tried to enhance their senses.
Senior Exhibitions Manager John O’Shea said:
“With Supersenses we have created a series of really immersive, unusual experiences in our galleries, that cannot be encountered anywhere else. We want visitors to leave this exhibition with a better understanding of how we each ‘sense’ the world differently, and be encouraged to continue to test out their senses after they leave the museum.”
The Sensory Soundpit is a pioneering instrument for the 21st century, enabling all audiences to experiment with sound through touch, visuals and movement. The installation merges the digital and physical realms using sand: as visitors touch and move the sand in three different Soundpits they create their own visual and sound mixes. It is inspired in part by synesthesia, a phenomenon experienced by 1 in 2,000 people where a sense in one part of the body stimulates another sense at the same time, for example ‘hearing colour’.
Artist Di Mainstone, who has received funding from Arts Council England to develop the piece for the Supersenses exhibition, worked with a team including musicians Mandy Wigby and Howie Jacobs, interaction designer Paul Miller, producer Annie Keane, and Bradford-based programmers and games designers Kriss and Shi Blank.
Tastes of London
Also displayed is a reproduction of synesthete James Wannerton’s map of the London Underground, the result of a 49-year-long project which charts what each station on the network tastes like for him. For example James, who has been diagnosed with lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, tastes rich fruit cake when he sees the name King’s Cross. He is president of the UK Synaesthesia Association.
Journey Through the Mirror Pool
World-renowned sound recordist Chris Watson, Manchester-based sound artists Noise Orchestra, and Alan Dunn—artist and Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University—have worked with students from Leeds Beckett University and the University of Bradford to record the ‘unheard’ sounds of Bradford city centre’s Mirror Pool fountain, capturing audio from above, around and even from its complex machinery below ground. This new eight-minute composition will be played in the gallery, taking visitors on a unique audio journey that reveals very different aspects of this familiar attraction.
Visitors will be able to literally leave their mark on the Supersenses exhibition as artist Zane Berzina’s installation coats a gallery wall in different shades of thermochromic inks, which react to body heat. Colours and shapes will constantly change as the wall is touched.
In the Eyes of the Animal
In the Eyes of the Animal encircles viewers within a 6ft tall, 180° screen for an incredibly immersive visual experience. The animated simulation takes viewers on a journey through a forest, showing the world through the eyes of a dragonfly, a frog and an owl. It was produced by the creative studio Marshmallow Laser Feast, using 3D scanning technology and 360° cameras to give audiences a first-hand insight into how virtual reality can help communicate different sensory experiences.
Sensing the Unknown
Visitors will see and hear things they have never observed before as the challenges of sensing the vastly distant, the microscopic, the physically inaccessible, and even the Big Bang are explored. Historic innovations, images and sounds illustrate how technology has given the human senses super powers. Examples include sound recordings from inside an ants’ nest by Todmorden-based artist Helmut Lemke, and an original sketch of a nebula made by astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1835.
Animal Sensing Trail
In addition to all the exhibits above, the National Science and Media Museum’s learning team will be on gallery performing sense tests—finding which visitors are ‘super sensers’ and investigating if sound affects the taste of chocolate. For younger visitors (under 7s) there is a trail featuring interactive activities and surprising facts about animals’ senses, such as the catfish which has taste buds on the outside of its body—imagine being a giant tongue!
NOTES FOR EDITORS
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The National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, West Yorkshire, opened in 1983, and has since become one of the most visited UK museums outside London. The museum explores the science and culture of image and sound technologies, creating special exhibitions, interactive galleries and activities for families and adults. It is home to three cinemas, including Europe’s first IMAX cinema screen and the world’s only public Cinerama screen outside the USA. Entry to the museum is free.