The way that the sounds melt down together is uncanny. You would expect many of these harsh noises to be disconcerting, but they are actually very soothing. Just as some babies are helped to sleep by womb sounds, the din forms a calming racket. Ebizie wants the experience of her art to be a healing process, and uses sensory immersion and deprivation to achieve this. She mentions, however, that we know so much about these practices because they were extensively researched by the CIA for torture purposes.
At this time, some participants choose to lie down, others play with the water; one may close their eyes and drift off, another will keep their eyes peeled and their senses on high alert. Personally, I remained awake but slipped in and out of awareness. I would lay on my side and periodically notice rays of light beaming onto the water and colours on the walls which looked like stained glass windows. I have no idea how long the integration stage actually lasted.
The multisensory approach to Extreme Unction, Vol. 2 is informed largely by Ebizie’s own experiences of neurodivergence. In 2016, she reached a point where she described herself as ‘feeling a real disconnect between the way I describe reality and the way other people do.’ Online, she found that her experiences lined up with visual snow syndrome, a condition whose symptoms affect the sight but which may have a neurological cause. Ebizie describes seeing ‘starbursts, streams of light, and afterimages’ which resemble negatives.
Her work with researchers into the syndrome in London led Ebizie to consider other artists and historical figures who may have also perceived reality differently in a time when there was insufficient scientific knowledge to explain it. She then stumbled upon a 12th century religious figure and polymath: Hildegard von Bingen. Based on descriptions of her physical symptoms and visions, the neurologist Oliver Sacks suggested that she may have suffered from ocular migraines. While Ebizie doesn’t want to claim that von Bingen had any specific neurological syndrome, she found common ground with her and was inspired by her as an artist who may have been neurodivergent.
After leaving the tent and finishing the integration stage, you are taken to yet another relaxing space, this time with chairs and a dining table, as well as some cushions and blankets on the floor. As you cosy up however you choose, the chaperone gives everyone a sparkling elderflower and mint drink, a pen and a piece of paper. At this time, the attendees are invited to write or draw their reflections on the paper, and then to discuss their experience of the integration.
At first, it may feel slow. Speaking so candidly with strangers might feel unintuitive or even uncomfortable. But once the dam breaks, more thoughts arrive. Everyone, when I went, described how unwound they felt; one said she wanted to do it everyday after work. But you could argue that just going once in a lifetime was a privilege.