Art & Design

September 28, 2015

Hypnotising a Group of Hong Kong Billionaires in the Name of Art

Take a deep look into Marcos Lutyens' eyes and you will hear the sound of spiders yawning

  • Written by Jessica Brinton

Marcos Lutyens explores how we can feel more, see more, hear more, taste more. A British artist who lives in California, he’s even trained his mind to see colours when he looks at letters of the alphabet – Marcos showed me a chart with corresponding colours: “i” was the colour of mist and “k’ is a “confident marine blue”.

Marcos just has got back home to LA after a two month stint hypnotising subjects in a boat on the Bosphorus for the Istanbul Biennial. Marcos liked that his home in Istanbul was where Trotsky stayed on the way to Mexico. He spent his time on the ship visualising the human mind in its most awakened state.

His work in Istanbul was a continuation of research he’d begun for the thirteenth edition of dOCUMENTA, the most prestigious art event in the world, held every five years in Kassel, Germany. There, back in 2012, he installed a hut in the grounds of the Staatspark inspired by a visit to the Breitenau concentration park nearby.

The hut, titled Reflecting Room for Hypnotic Show, with its mirrored floor took his subjects “back to themselves, to an internal dialogue with their own unconscious.” Whilst there, he read them passages from J G Ballard’s The Crystal World, or offered them olfactory stimulation like the scent of fur on an envelope.

“One man at dOCUMENTA, in a state of deep trance, became convinced he was blue cake icing.”

We meet, though, for dinner in Hong Kong, on the invitation of his benefactors, the whisky makers, Royal Salute. The guests are a group of well-connected billionaires and the theme of the dinner is “perdurity,” relating to the idea that throughout our lives, our identities can be broken down into distinct parts.

Marcos takes the group through a process of guided meditation in order to “break through the membrane of the present and cast a spell on the evening.”  He says that, “becoming aware of the live feeds that go into our body is life-changing. Our brain is seeing colours much brighter than they are. It hears sounds and words and voices much more than our conscious mind.”

That goes for Hong Kong billionaires too.

He is obsessed with synesthesia, the neurological condition where the stimulation of one sense can also be felt cognitively in another, and has been exploring this with his friend, the neuroscientist, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California in San Diego.

He knows a cocktail maker, Jodie Mostiff, who mixes award-winning cocktails by harmonising physical colour with the synesthetic colours that come from taste. He thinks that the deeper we go inside our own unconscious minds, the more our senses connect anyway. This is why one man at dOCUMENTA, in a state of deep trance, became convinced he was blue cake icing.

On the boat in Istanbul, Marcos asked three close friends to choose a coloured thread with their eyes closed, and they all chose the same colour. “The chance of that happening is 7424 to one.”

Why are we so far away from that experience when we aren’t being hypnotised? He says it’s a “bombardment of a fragmented and mosaiced reality, different mirrors of the world around us presented to us as real and happening right now.” Our minds are “flip-flopping these multiple modes of our selves and how we perceive reality to be.”

“Are we going mad or should we just buy old Nokias that don’t have the internet?”

He says we’d do better to spend more time inside ourselves, where there is a more “archetypal sense of time” – one where we don’t need phones anyway.

One day he’s going to build an actual place like that, where people can come to “transform their understanding of reality and their connection with the natural systems of the mind.” He likes the idea of prosumers who “create their own reality, rather than merely consuming the external information that washes over them.”

The prize: when all the clutter is out of the way, and we can see connections between things again—like we did before we forgot how—we’ll hear butterflies waking up, clouds singing to each other, mice crying, spiders yawning, stones sighing.

After the dinner, he says that he “sensed intuitively that the mood was suddenly quite magical, as if a glass wall had been broken. People’s emotions and poetic dream state had been accessed.”

To learn more about Perdurity and Royal Salute’s The Eternal Reserve, visit


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