During the summer of 2014 and 2015 at Fenberger House I initiated The Flicker Art Research. Small groups of participants engaged in several 30 minute Mind Machine sessions over the course of a day, drawing what they ‘saw’ immediately after each session.

A total of 34 people took part. 25 answered a simple questionnaire after the sessions, 9 did not. The average age of the participants was between 20-35. Over half of the participants were women. None of the participants had experienced a mind machine before.


The research was inspired by my reading of David Lewis Williams’ ‘The Mind in the Cave’. Lewis Williams proposes that one of the source factors for our ancestors drawing on cave walls was experiences of altered states of consciousness. In some altered states visual hallucinations or entoptic phenomena could have been experienced. Williams suggests that our capacity and curiosity for ‘making art’ emerged from these intense altered states of consciousness.

Psychologists have researched these phenomenon for over one hundred years. Lewis Williams, among others, proposes six core entoptic patterns or shapes that can be seen across all human subjects experiencing altered hallucinatory states.

The drawings I asked the participants to make following the Mind Machine sessions seem to fit these six core patterns.

A couple of participants reported and drew quite realistic objects and ‘sights’. The majority drew geometric abstract patterns.


The Mind Machine used was the Photosonix Nova Pro 100. I used the same preset light flicker pattern for all participants. The internal sound was not used, and instead I played Indian classical ragas on record during the sessions.


The participants were also asked to complete a simple questionnaire. I asked them to circle the emotions and feelings they most felt during the session. The following feelings were indicated:

Unique, Frightening, Spiritual, Uplifting, Normal, Uncomfortable, Meditative, Peaceful, Confusing, Wow!, Sleepy and Stressful.

Of the 25 respondents to the questionnaire the feelings most chosen were as follows:

Meditative: 16
Unique: 13
Spiritual, Uplifting, Wow!: 11
Sleepy: 9
Frightening: 6

Small display of participants drawings in the CW McDonald Gallery, 2017.
Small display of participants drawings in the CW McDonald Gallery, 2017.


In 2013 I had constructed a simple Dreamachine based on Brion Gysin and William Burrough’s model, from instructions available online. After several experiments I determined that this was not ideal for triggering patterns due to poor light intensity.