I was in two minds on how to write this. On the one hand as a stalwart Imperialist (person of Imperial College) with a thorough grounding in scientific lore, the word ether when referring to waves conjures up memories of an as-of-1887 defunct theory of a medium said to transmit light through space. On the other, after having spent Easter in a less than scientific family in a less than scientific country, something inside me says possibly the importance of something doesn’t always lie in whether it is true or not. It is this that leads to my somewhat Jekyll and Hyde opinion of the Ethometric Museum.
The Ethometric Museum itself is an installation in a room full of whirring, buzzing, beeping, flashing, soft siren-screeching machines. It sounds part Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and part primitive view of a brave new world of robotics. But of course the sounds are a mere by-product of the ethometric waves filling you with good will and positive energy. That is the whole point. These archaic looking machines were ‘rescued from a fire’ and carefully tuned to produce these never-before-heard-of-to-science waves: ethometric waves. This is not a night out using Hangman’s recommendations. These were guaranteed to induce happiness by the time we left.
In a darkened room, about twenty duped individuals milled around looking at machines with names like the Sonaesthetic Ethometer and Ether Flux Magnifier while things flashed, machines beeped and a middle aged man in a tweed suit with white gloves altered dials, generally looking serious and occasionally making magnets move metal objects. Enough to make anyone smile right? Well isn’t that just it? This man lectures in contemporary arts and music at Oxford Brookes University. I find it hard to believe anybody in the modern age could fall for this sort of rubbish so instead I plug for the option that it’s some sort of elaborate piece of art where the exhibit is more the acting, the people viewing it and their feelings. A happening perhaps, I’m not sure, I’m not au fait with this lingo. This view could explain why it was shown at Battersea Arts Centre and not Imperial College London.
So that’s my take. Of the show itself, highlights included a blonde assistant, the fact that she was eastern-European and her acting ability. I was particularly impressed by how she didn’t laugh when she told some of her stories; a favourite of mine was how Einstein calculated the age of the universe after an ethometric sesh. Would I recommend it? Well I did leave happy, but a free beer will do that to you.
The Ethometric Museum at The Battersea Arts Centre on the 25 and 26 May. Tickets are £10.