Artist Lisa Park's performative piece <i>Eunoia</i> uses an EEG sensor and her brain to interact with dishes of water.
"Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?” asked existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. NY-based artist Lisa Park took this prompt as an invitation to extend the potential of man beyond our bodily limitations in the performative art project Eunoia, which means “beautiful thought” in Greek.
Exploring questions of vulnerability, self-control, and liberation, Park recreates a scene that looks as if it's been lifted from your favorite Kung-Fu movie or an outtake from Kill Bill. Wearing a futuristic headset embeded with electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, Park moniters her own brain activity during meditation and transposes this energy onto dishes of water to reveal zen-like vibrations.
Park is working with the experimental brain-computer technologies of the NeuroSky EEG headset, which you might remember from the Necomimi cat ear headset we wrote about a while back. It measures her eye movement, along with the delta, theta, alpha, and beta waves of her brain. The data is collected in real-time by custom Processing software, where it can be viewed in graphs, charts, or digits.
Though the data is robust, it's mostly inscrutable to the untrained eye. Park creates a simple visual metaphor that allows visitors to clearly see the effects of her brain activity through the use of five 24" metal dishes half filled with water that are perched upon 15" speakers arranged in a circle. Each dish represents a particular emotion and together are meant to represent infinite unity, while Park is center stage attempting enlightenment.
So, how does she actually make the water vibrate? She translates her brainwaves into sound waves by linking Processing with Max/MSP and Reaktor, where the megahertz from her brain are turned into deep, echo-y, trance-inducing audio.
Her apparatus functions similarly to the ones used in cymatics, the study of visible sound. The modulations become seeable as they reverberate on the water, causing droplets to jump in unpredictable formations. This dance depends upon the speed, volume, panning, and pitch of the wobbly noises [watch the video to hear]. The attributes increase in conjunction with the chaos of brain activity and emotional intensity. The result is a display that delivers data in a compelling yet understated way.
When Park calibrated the audio with the EEG data, she would associate specific emotions with certain people on recall. She’d adjust her audio and visuals accordingly. One month was spent on this process before achieving some consistency. She had hoped to end her performance in absolute silence and stillness--an artistic goal that turned out to be unattainable. “It would require more discipline to achieve my initial goal of finding stillness in emotion...it was a vulnerable experience," admits Park.
She intends to build a more dramatic exhibit of Eunoia and attempt her demonstration again. This time with a custom-made pond that would stretch far enough to capture her entire reflection. Larger and more quality speakers would be placed underneath. They’d emit crisper, more prominent, and more detailed trembles through the water.