Always Here for You: ASMR Workshop + Performance
ASMR, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a pleasurable, “tingling” sensation in the scalp and spine, provoked by soft sounds — whispering, nail tapping, brushing. Not everyone “has” ASMR, but those who do often recall their first tingling in early childhood, at the hair salon or watching Bob Ross paint landscapes on PBS. Never scientifically studied, and christened in a Yahoo Chat forum in 1999, ASMR has a devoted community of followers who find a home — and post thousands of videos – on YouTube. These videos, often with hundreds of thousands of views, are created both to trigger ASMR in the audience and to relax, to soothe, to ease anxiety.
The videos: role plays of psychologists, hotel attendants, spa treatments, alien abductions; hours of nails tapping and papers crinkling; confessional videos, shopping haul videos, “best friend” affirmation/confidence-boosting videos. The latter are some of the most enthralling: young women whispering, stroking the camera, nodding with intent and caring gazes, hoping to create some feeling of connection, of intimacy. “I know you’re having a hard time now, but it’s going to get better.” “We’ll work on this together.” “You deserve to be happy.” “I’m always here for you.”
The role plays, performed by strangers, mimic everyday situations of closeness. Recorded binaurally, even videos without dialogue provoke this displaced intimacy –- here are fingernails tapping in your headphones that could be tapping on your desk. This is intimacy divorced from the physical and injected into your screen, the mundane and familiar realities of human contact at one remove – an extension or a simulation?
The evening will comprise a workshop followed by a performance. The workshop will begin with brief foundational notes about ASMR. Participants will be asked to write role-plays – alone or in small groups, and with or without dialogue. At 9pm, the workshop will transition into the performance, with participants performing their role plays on each other and on willing audience members. The subjects of the role plays will hold microphones, live-streaming the performances onto Chicago’s own NUMBERS.FM. In this way, we hope to explore the ways in which the videos’ intimacy-at-a-distance mutates when translated back into a physical space (and then once more into the digital).
Through the workshop, participants will be immersed in a complete cycle of ASMR triggering and feedback, experiencing every angle of the ASMR intimacy dynamic. Useful tips about role play narratives and topics, as well as binaural recording will also be shared. This is the first full-scale ASMR workshop of this sort, and participants will be helping to shape a form that is very much still in development.
Some ASMR trigger material will be provided to use as props in role plays. However, participants should bring (if possible): writing materials or a laptop, as well as any preferred ASMR trigger materials, such as (clean) makeup brushes, nail polish bottles, special papers, plastic packaging, a hair brush – really, anything that can make an ASMR noise when you touch it gently (i.e. anything).
Cst hosts the biweekly ASMR radio show You’re Worth it (http://berlincommunityradio.com/you-re-worth-it) on Berlin Community Radio. She lives and works in Berlin.