When entering Bliss Cavanagh’s sensory artspace for the first time, words other than ‘wow’ or variants of it are hard to come across, but soon, simple and obvious descriptive words, like ‘furry’ and ‘colourful’ will arise.
Its ideal for art intended to compel admirers to “just sit.” There are faux-furred lounges and couches to do that on; there are multi-coloured and pulsing circular lights (like water droplets) on a string curtain, but that’s just one side of the room. Lamps, a bubble machine and more couches rest on the other, while in between, more couches, a planetary wire-and-ball sculpture and fibre-optic flowers pulse more multicolour. When I was there, a band named ‘Lemonjelly’ (imagine what that sounds like) was playing. (This is all without mentioning the walls or ceiling.)
From the outside, you can’t see in; from the inside, you can’t see out. It’s a room of simple pleasures in which, if you spend enough time there, might feel like being in space and underwater simultaneously.
“I hope it’s going to be a space you can go and … forget about everything else that’s out there,” Ms Cavanagh said. Setting up “took six days and many very late nights” during the week preceding Create 2308, so she’s unarguably earned the right to sit in there for the next few days.
The 24-year-old Bachelor of Fine Art graduate is now doing a PhD. She’s looking into the therapeutic benefits of spaces like this and their accessibility for members of the general public. Having lived with Tourette’s Syndrome since she was a child, designing these art spaces with a focus on interactivity and sensory engagement, she believes has undoubtedly helped her control her ticks.
“All of my work has been drawn from living with Tourette’s Syndrome.”
“That’s how I’ve come to be really passionate about sensory environments that could come from this sort of therapy.”
“I hope [The Sensory Effect] just opens peoples’ eyes to an alternative experience and an alternative way to find relaxation … that you don’t really need to go out and drink lots or find other avenues.”
“You can just give your senses a bit of feeding and nourishment to be able to help you relax and calm down.”
For the duration of the week, Ms Cavanagh’s space is open to all who walk by. She’ll be there all week for a chat as well, with a few of her furry wares for sale.
Check out Bliss’s studio, Studio Bliss, in Newcastle’s Hunter Street Mall, or check out her Facebook page. Head to her installation in the Hunter Building to sign up for notifications on her PhD research and opportunities to participate.