say when you can feel it
07/04/23 - 14/04/23
The latest in OUTPUT’s ongoing series of postal exhibitions is a collaboration between artist Jacques Verkade and writer Callan Waldron-Hall. Their “say when you can feel it” is a booklet exploring the tender, fantastical and often misunderstood world of ASMR through a combination of poetry and imagery. Building on previous collaborative work, “say when you can feel it” investigates five pieces of media from some of the most popular ASMR content creators found on YouTube and how ASMR acts as both artform and medium, through collaged texts embedded in digitally rendered scenescapes.

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, a term used to describe a pleasant tingling sensation usually at the top of the head and spine alongside feelings of wellbeing, in response to particular audio or visual stimuli.

Jacques’ artworks reflect the pleasing, yet sometimes uncomfortable sensations of hyper-proximity found in many intimate pieces of ASMR media, capturing tactile sensations such as breathing, or finger nails drawn slowly across a microphone.

Callan’s texts draw on collage techniques, recontextualising existing media reminiscent of early ASMR content.

Both are keen to create immersive scenescapes— spaces for sensory exploration. In these almost-worlds, the lightest touch from a feather might feel both delicate and repulsive. The words present take on a physicality, at times drifting in the quiet, while others are burrowed into skin.

Jacques and Callan invite us to lean into the intimacy of ASMR, to embrace its potentially unsettling nature and interrogate our own relationship with comfort and restoration.

Over the past decade we have seen the ASMR online community develop, with content creators devising videos intended to trigger audiences’ ASMR for comfort, rest and relaxation. These videos range from the mundane, such as tapping on domestic objects or up-close whispered rambles, to more elaborate roleplays inviting audiences to participate – as patients undergoing eye tests, receiving haircuts, or even booking holidays to distant planets.

Instagram: @callanwh
Twitter: @callanwh
Website: callanwrotethat.wordpress.com
Instagram: @jacques_verkade

Download a plain text version of say you can feel it featuring all poems (PDF, 54KB)

Listen to Jacques & Callan's episode of our regular radio show on Melodic Distraction, featuring poetry written and performed by Callan, interspersed with a mix of Japanese pop and jazz selected by Jacques.

Find all episodes here

Keep scrolling for an online version of the booklet, a Q&A with the artists and more...


- Listen to poem as audio (mp3, 1.7MB)

i missed you so much

- Listen to poem as audio (mp3, 1.4MB)

i really hope this works

- Listen to poem as audio (mp3, 2.2MB)

little moth

- Listen to poem as audio (mp3, 1.1MB)



The scenescapes respond to the following YouTube videos and content creators respectively:

Departure Ep. 1: Departure (or "Space Travel Agent") - ASMR Sci-Fi Series, ASMRrequests
*_* Oh such a good 3D-sound ASMR video *_*
- Gentle Whispering ASMR
ASMR Binaural (3D) Cranial Nerve Examination Role Play for Tingles, Relaxation, and Sleep - Heather Feather ASMR
Come closer, little moth...❤ - TheOneLilium ASMR
ASMR 10 Triggers to Help You Sleep ♥ - Darling ASMR
What are your earliest experiences / memories of your own creativity?

JACQUES VERKADE: I was pretty reticent and introverted as a kid, so I spent much of my time daydreaming about fantastical and silly worlds. From there, I started drawing these imaginations, creating characters and stories that played out inside them. Because of my dyslexia, drawing felt like a much more natural way to express myself than writing, which was a bit of a battle for me.

CALLAN WALDRON-HALL: I remember loving creative writing tasks in school. In hindsight I probably got too invested in the stories(!) but I was really lucky to have teachers that encouraged me to keep writing.

You met through working at Bluecoat, a well-established public contemporary art institution - has this had any significant impact on your individual or shared creative identity?

JV: Bluecoat was a formative environment for me; it was probably the first time I felt at home in a creative place where my wacky ideas weren’t met with confusion but with either excitement or disgust; I think these often-polarising creative opinions were much more helpful than the disinterest I had sometimes been met with previously.

CWH: Absolutely. I find being around other people excited to create, to tell stories, is really charging. It keeps you in that creative headspace – and getting to see what others are making keeps you really driven.

Was ASMR a shared interest or something one of you had to convince the other was a valuable subject for a creative project?

JV: We both probably spend too much time online, so I think you naturally end up being exposed to ASMR and its online realm/digital place. I knew the big players within the ASMR community, but Callan was more knowledgeable about the topic. I think ASMR is such a strangely intimate experience that I was excited about the challenge of capturing the delicate, almost nurturing but slightly disconcerting feeling that runs through Callan’s poems.

CWH: I’ve been fascinated with ASMR for the longest time now. I based my final project for my MA around ASMR’s capacity for dual purpose. I find it so interesting how a video can defy space and time and somehow produce these somatic/tangible effects for its audience. We initially worked together because of a piece of longform writing I did for Corridor8 where Jacques created these really striking images, so this project felt like the logical next step.

What kind of emotional reaction do you hope that your work creates?

JV: I want the reader to feel the poems as they read them, in the same way, you feel the invisible or phantom touch when you listen to an ASMR video. I aim to intrigue the reader and invite them to analyse the shared appeal of ASMR, its purpose within the digital realm and how it reflects on our shared societal psyche. I would love to reincarnate Karl Marx and force him to watch ASMR videos to see what he thinks about them, lol.

CWH: I agree with Jacques on this. This idea of almost feeling something just from reading it, from occupying that scenescape – whether it be pleasant or uncomfortable – is really interesting. ASMR content can often be really polarising for audiences, who might argue over how a creator pronounces a word, or even how they breathe(!) so it’s a such a wild space to explore. I think Jacques’ images really tap into ASMR’s bizarre, unsettling capacity.

How have you found the process of collaboration - has it changed the way you work, or the nature of the work you create, in a meaningful way?

JV: I probably would have never delved into ASMR without collaborating with Callan, but I’m happy I did, as it’s bled into my personal practice broadening my creative mind bank; that sounds rather silly, but you know what I mean. I’m studying for my MFA and finding that this project’s delicate, almost sensory nature has been a natural source of inspiration. Although I’m not creating art about ASMR, it lends itself to my practice, and I’ve been attempting to integrate it into more installation, large-scale immersive work.

CWH: It’s been really fun. As we’ve said we’ve collaborated to a lesser extent previously, but this project feels much more like a shared vision. I think Jacques has a really unique ability to draw out these uncomfortable details and realise them in a way that feels very personal. Jacques’ eye for visual detail and layout has definitely influenced how I approach form and structure in my own writing. I’ve been working on a body of work exploring digital spaces recently and this project felt like a natural precursor, so it’s been really helpful.
Do you exclusively write poetry? Do you also write prose or express yourself in other media?

CWH: Recently it’s been a lot of poetry, but I’ve been experimenting and having fun with what we might expect from a poem, such as including cheat codes from old video games, or jumping between digital spaces and identities to physical places. I do also write prose, but I’m keen to continue playing in these between-spaces.

What inspires you to write?

CWH: Literally anything at any given time. The other day I was thinking about how much I love pears and how they don’t get the recognition apples get. I think being actively open to inspiration, to considering everything as a potential idea for something is hard work, but well worth it. Recent inspirations: old email passwords, paint tester pots, Tommy Lefroy’s new EP Rivals, every two-player game I’ve ever played, hometowns.
Where do you feel your practice sits between art and/or design?

JV: That’s an interesting one and something I’ve been thinking about lately; in some ways, I think I’m much more of a designer than an artist. I tend to create things with a function or a problem in mind rather than looking to express an idea or prod the audience to feel a specific way. On the other hand, I don’t feel like a designer because the function or problems I aim to solve are often entirely fictional despite often presenting the projects as real. Because the whole creative project is built on falsity and design fiction, it pushes me more into conceptual art than straight-up design.

How do your images begin - are they entirely built virtually or do you start out with photography and reference images?

JV: I have a beat-up, sad-looking sketchbook where I do mass thumbnail sketches of ideas to work out forms and composition. I’m hugely into films and cinematography, so whenever I imagine these scenes, I picture them in motion with audio and some form of loose contextual narrative. I think this affects the aesthetic outcome of the images and is a big reason I enjoy using 3D software. I blocked out the 3D scenes from the rough sketches and started experimenting with lighting, composition and camera effects. The process is like painting; I fine-tune all the material textures and details once I have a basic form, the same way a painter creates detail and depth as the painting progresses.