‘Browser Windows’ opens with a blonde woman talking straight at the camera in a breathy, infantilised whisper. She’s behaving as if there’s a person in front of her, not a webcam, while role playing as a tailor’s assistant taking a custom suit order: “Hi, hi, it’s so nice to finally meet you face-to-face”.
This is Maria (Маша) a Russian YouTube personality who’s channel GentleWhispering deals in Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) –a new fad and neologism describing a “pleasurable tingling” across the core of the body in response to sensory stimulation. That’s her in the ‘-⋈-ASMR Gentlemen’s Suit Fitting Session-⋈-’ video, opening ‘Browser Windows’ before the sounds of the Sea Organ of Zadar –an experimental musical instrument made up of a collection of tubes, stairs and the sea in Croatia –carries the bizarre and beautiful scene of Maria’s making through the equally eerie current of wobbling echo.
“She’s always speaking to an imaginary client at a hairdresser, tailor, massage salon, etc”, writes Ulijona Odisarija via email, a photographer and three times DJ performing under the name Sweatlana who first encountered Maria via the silky hair and disembodied hands of ‘~≈Soft Spoken Relaxing Hair Play≈~’: “the whispering is supposed to calm you down and give ‘tingling sensations’ but the videos I find a bit disturbing – she’s so close to the camera, pretending to do things.”
This and more is all a part of Odisarija’s ‘Browser Windows’, mixing “youtube videos, soundcloud and a little bit of itunes”, performed live, recorded on Screenflow and streamed from a party called ‘1.5’, run by Petras Nav, Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf and Egle Suckmafinger.
Currently based in Vilnius, Lithuania, Odisarija and I are live chatting via Google Docs. I’ve inadvertently startled her by announcing that I’ve started recording the conversation with my Screen-o-Matic demo, to her Screenflow. The watermark on mine isn’t as overpowering as the ominous ‘DEMO MODE’ dominating the frame of Odisarija’s 37-minute music video but when it comes to ‘Browser Windows’, the capitalised, white, outlined and Drop shadow text adds a whole new dimension of weirdness to the experience of watching and listening as Odisarija flicks between Cooly G’s ‘He Said I Said’, a man yodelling Rossini’s William Tell Overture and a Russian kitten licking a vacuum cleaner. It’s a mix that is equal parts weird, grim and beguiling as it mimics the mental state of being sucked into a web-surfing void, which in the bleak words of another YouTube sensation ‘Peter’, is “hard and cold and darker than the black hole that sucks matter into itself and fuckin’ fucks that shit up.”
You can read an abridged version of the live conversation below. I recommend listening to ‘Browser Windows’ while doing so.
aqnb: I’m listening to Peter’s poem now.
Ulijona Odisarija: Peter’s brutal. Have you heard about him?
aqnb: No, what about him?
UO: He is very prolific. He has his YouTube channel and I can’t decide if it’s his art project, or someone’s art project or he is just … I don’t know… making videos and posting, posting and posting. It’s mostly his rants, or him singing Rihanna, or his own tracks, which are always called “best dubstep/rap/rock/opera track ever”. There are also a few videos of his houseguests, ladies, saying how great Peter is.
aqnb: Is GentleWhispering the same person who speaks in the gentlemen’s suit fitting sessions?
UO: Yes, her name is Maria.
aqnb: Who is Maria talking to?
UO: She has a lot of fans. Anyone seeking relaxation or having troubles sleeping. Those videos are meant to calm you down. Some of her videos have half a million views.
aqnb: Are you a fan seeking relaxation and/or having troubles sleeping?
UO: No, I never used it for the ‘real’ purpose. I’m just interested in the videos and Maria’s imagination.
aqnb: What is Maria’s background and how did she get into ASMR?
UO: I haven’t researched it so thoroughly, to be honest. I know she’s Russian and she’s not the only one doing these videos. But from what I’ve seen she seems to be a sort of ASMR video star/acclaimed ASMR video artist.
Let me see… I’m going to her channel now. I think it might be her career:
“Let me try and keep you company at hard times, let me calm you down and help you sleep on restless nights, let me be your friend and be a triggerer [sic] for your tingles (ASMR) or simply show you life from my perspective and help you find beauty and peace in places you might have never thought of looking.
I thank all of my loyal viewers, friends and supporters for helping me get this far…~♥~”
What is interesting about Maria’s videos is that ASMR is normally a sonic experience. You don’t really need to be watching it.
aqnb: That’s funny because I’m playing ‘Browser Windows’ right now without watching it.
UO: It is funny because it wasn’t my initial intention either –you know, to make it something to watch. People at the event I played at didn’t see it. They were just hearing music.
aqnb: Did you use Screenflow because it was the only way you could record it?
UO: It was the only program I knew. It was actually the first time I used it.
aqnb: It makes sense to do it live via YouTube otherwise you have to rip the tracks first, which is such a waste of time.
UO: Yeah, it’s only convenient! And it’s really ‘live’. You gotta be aware of what you’re doing and prepared. Know your videos 🙂 **
Ulijona Odisarija is a Vilnius-based photographer. You can download ‘Browser Windows’ from her Soundcloud.