Sensory journey

TOUCH: Di Mainstone's Sensory Soundpit at the Science and Media Museum in Bradford.
TOUCH: Di Mainstone's Sensory Soundpit at the Science and Media Museum in Bradford.
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A new exhibition at the Science and Media Museum in Bradford explores our senses in innovative and unusual ways. Yvette Huddleston reports.

Every day our senses are bombarded with stimuli that we are unconsciously processing.

In our fast-moving, super-connected modern world most of us are living in the real and the virtual simultaneously but a new exhibition at the Science and Media Museum in Bradford offers visitors an opportunity to slow down and explore the different ways in which we perceive our surroundings. Supersenses which opens next week, aims to engage and challenge visitors with unusual sights, sounds, tastes and smells. Experiences include hearing colours, discovering how the London Underground tastes and seeing the world through the eyes of a dragonfly.

A key piece in the exhibition is Journey Through the Mirror Pool, an eight-minute sound installation exploring Bradford’s hidden urban soundscape, created with world-renowned sound recordist Chris Watson. Born in Sheffield and now based in Newcastle, Watson specialises in recording the sound of wildlife and the natural world – he has worked on several of David Attenborough’s award-winning films – and he lent his considerable expertise to the project which is a collaboration between Manchester-based Noise Orchestra and students from Leeds Beckett University and the University of Bradford.

The seeds for the piece were sown when Watson was on his way to an initial meeting with Alan Dunn of Leeds Beckett University to discuss ideas. Walking through Bradford’s City Park he paused by the fountains of the Mirror Pool. “It was such an interesting and unusual soundscape for a city,” he says. “And as I was listening the City Hall clock started to chime... I thought it would interesting to do something abstract, a vertical project incorporating different layers of the city.” The team began on the surface then, using underwater microphones, captured sounds within the pool.They were also given access to the chamber beneath the pool to record the machinery that drives it. “It’s a kind of sound walk,” says Watson. “So you go from the urban, through the water and down into this dark subterranean place. The idea was to encourage audiences to think about everyday sounds in a different way.”

Other items in the show include a Sensory Soundpit developed by artist Di Mainstone which allows audiences to experiment with sound through touch, visuals and movement and Zane Berzina’s installation Touch Me which coats a gallery wall in different shades of thermochromic inks which react to body heat, creating a large-scale interactive work of constantly changing colours and shapes as the wall is touched by visitors.

One of the most unusual exhibits is James Wannerton’s Tastes of London Tube map. Wannerton has synaesthesia, a neurological condition whereby a sensation in one of the senses triggers a response in another, and his map charts what each stop on the London Underground tastes like for him. When he sees the name King’s Cross, for example, he tastes fruit cake; other flavours on the map include jelly tots, roast lamb, apple pie and HP sauce.

For Watson it was a pleasure to collaborate on The Mirror Pool project and spend time exploring City Park. “It feels like a bit of an oasis,” he says. “And I’m sure that is partly to do with the sound of it.”

Supersenses opens at the Science and Media Museum, on July 15 as part of Bradford Science Festival weekend and runs until October 8.