Above – Jess Stanley. Photo – Sarah Clarke

In a tiny alcove off the bar in the Fringe Hub at Trades Hall, Jessica Stanley, dressed as a cherubic fortune teller, offers up a live introduction to ASMR. 

ASMR is short for autonomous sensory meridian response – the “brain tingles” one gets when stimulated by sensory offerings like noises, sights or touch.  

Huge subcultures of ASMR populate YouTube with channels devoted to people unwrapping gifts, eating meals for long durations of time and popping pimples to music. There’s something out there for everybody – such is the democracy of ASMR.  

Stanley’s show has only 10 seats, each with its own headphones and all in close proximity to the glass booth in which Stanley performs. From her little chamber, she samples a smorgasbord of aural techniques like scratching, tapping and whispering by manipulating objects – feathers, papers, bubble wrap – on an ear-shaped microphone.

The various noises and Stanley’s silky-smooth voice translate crystal clear into the personal headphones. So do outdoor noises from the bar and surrounding shows, which sometimes detracts from the intimacy.  

The space is so small – it’s impossible to avoid the request to pick cards from a tarot-like deck. Based on the cards revealed, Saturday night’s audience of seven experienced scenarios including box unpacking, listening to the snip-snip and chatter of a haircut and mukbang (Korean “eating broadcast”) with crunching and slurping noises featuring heavily. 

Stanley seamlessly combines commentary and satire within her scenes, simultaneously fascinated and skeptical by the fetishism and commodification that is at play in ASMR.

Whether your brain ends up tingly or just befuddled by it all really depends what turns you on. 

Such is the joy of the Melbourne Fringe festival where a niche performer/storyteller like Stanley can develop her unique craft in bringing a little-discussed phenomenon to three-dimensional life. 

Event details

Spinning Plates Co. and North of Eight proudly present
JSMR
Jessica Stanley

Venue: Loading Dock Bar | Festival Hub: Trades Hall, Cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts, Carlton VIC
Dates: 6 – 21 October 2022
Tickets: $30 – $15
Bookings: www.spinningplatesco.com

Part of the 2022 Melbourne Fringe Festival

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