Prozac Nation & Brave New World inspired pioneering brainwave controlled performance in the boiler room of Caerleon College ( Newport University) 1995
I recently revisited my earliest EEG artwork “Phantasmagoria” and developed it into “The Creation of The Strobes” shown in The Waag, NL as ‘work in progress’. So I am now retrieving archive mediation of the performance from photos and tape cassettes, to show where this began and how the 2 works inform each other.
The photos show the EEG sensors across the forehead, the radio-wave EEG transmitter is on the back of my head with a small aerial, and it is styled into a glowing sci-fi device and my costume displays the rave influence with my own style and obsession with pink light at the time. Certain frequencies of fast scientific strobe light appear pink, before white. The Apple Centris computer has the EEG radio received on top, connected to the mac by RS232 cable using a ‘Keyspan’ adapter into usb. It is showing one channel of EEG, the second computer had the second channel to control Macromedia Director interactive project that was being projected over the helium balloons and walls of the boiler room beneath the university in Caerleon, Newport, Wales.
Installation I made in 1995, using Apple Mac Centris x 2, IBVA radiowave stereo EEG system, helium balloons, in a boiler room under the University in Caerleon, Newport, Gwent, Wales. It was the culmination of a year experimenting with realtime EEG and interactive Art – controlling a Macromedia Director stack of images and video loops, changes made by cognitive shifts in attention, meditation and trance.
The theme behind the performance was the novel by Aldous Huxley “Brave New World” which I adjusted into my concept of “Brave New Woman” assisted by Prozac. The biography “Prozac Nation’ by Elizabeth Wurtzeil was very important at the time, and I was interested in Noo-tropics, smart drugs, the legal hights available to augment the pressures of being a creative student. Brave New World spoke of ‘Soma’ with an amazing similarity to ecstasy and the culture of MDMA enhanced experiences many of us related to. The Soma in the future , appeared to give emotions and enhanced sensory details to people who were in other ways restricted, much like Prozac. The similarity with ecstasy and the emerging sub culture of serotonin surfing was dominant in my work, as the EEG allowed information combined with synthesis of natural substances to be studied. I am wearing a Sheep Jumping over the fold t-shirt implying sleep research from a time when sleep was more scarce, and future work was to focus more on sleep hormones, Lucid dreaming and the brain. All images connect to larger version on click:
My latest project in development is titled “The Creation of the strobes” – inspired by the atmosphere created by Spanish surrealist artist Remedios Varo, who was exiled to Mexico in the 1940s. I discovered this painting for the first time whilst I was visiting Mexico in 2012 as an artist involved in The 5th Encounter of Art and New Sciences in CENART, and was captivated. I connect with her Hybrid Morphology, the extensions of the partly Avian artist through science and alchemy absorbed totally in her work. I have begun to develop a costume, performance and arrange a new selection of sound samples to be triggered by my brainwaves, further evokin this painting, bringing it gradually to life, through a contemporary telematic ‘seance’.
I disguised the EEG sensors behind a feathered mask, this is the first time I am beginning to convert myself into a character, as Remedios’ hybrid avian artist. I am using 4 sensors ( 2 Positives at FP1 and Fp2 locations above eyebrows, ground on forehead and negative on mastoid) and a BrainMachine EEG system. The electrodes are pre-gelled so easy to apply to skin, then secured more firmly and hidden by the feathered mask.
This is the first time I have made and decorated a mask, I used plaster-of-paris webbing over a face form, and when drying applied PVA mixed with water in layers, then the feathers. Finally I amalgamated layers in mixes of Marabou and ‘Peacock Chinchilla’ feathers (the sort used by fly-fishers). I also used ‘toupée tape‘ to attach more feathers from finger tips to upper arms, and found this a simple, useful material for final touches.
For the dress, I adapted a vintage Edwardian lavender lace gown, embellished with more “Coque Feather” plumage attached to ribbons. Overall this gave me an antique and ethereal appearance of diminished glamor, heightened by beautiful wafts of feathery desires. I sourced a tiny guitar from a doll’s house emporium, so you can see I am wearing the 3 stringed instrument like a small guitar around my neck. The strings are the nerves, the instrument symbolic of the body with a connections to vibrational /esoteric alliances through a miniaturized musical technological invention, coherent with my contemporary tools.
I was invited to perform in the historical Anatomical Theatre of the Waag building in Amsterdam by the organisers of ICT ART CONNECT
and wish to thank them and their crew in the venue for assisting me and mediating the event, as always live art can be tricky to capture when you are in the midst of a trance ! I have been involved with ICT & ART Connect since November 2013 when I was invited to Lithuania’s Vilnius and Brussles to show how as an artist, I combine medical technology in my digital Fine Art practice. There was a series of events bringing artists and technologists together to explore new ways of working. During the following months, collaborative acts of co-creation, together with an open and multidisciplinary discussion, were fostered for the bringing together art and technology.
I always travel with a Mac laptop and at least two EEG systems, on this occasion my kit included a scientific strobe light and controller, a Victorian jewellery box with vintage sleeping condiments, a 1970’s Japanese portable record deck (for the Dreamachine), a medieval-style mirror (laser gazing the ceiling in the Waag), a peacock-feather mask, electrodes and batteries. And yes, my baggage searched in the airport security area!
This is work in progress, I wish to understand better how as a performer I convey the immediacy and experimental risks inherent in working with brainwaves in realtime, as opposed to tight choreography. I had some effects I wished to try out – staring into the scientific strobe with my eyes tightly shut, was profound within my mind, and I could hear the soundscape groaning with sardonic voices as I became enabled to trigger certain samples, not previously audible. But this was not sustainable, so I meandered and returned to a performative default state of lying on the floor in a long gown, gazing softly into the flickering Dreamachine to lull myself into an 8Hz daze. I am actually more interested in Theta waves (4-8Hz) but appear not to say that in the video interview. The laser beam was used to help me look outwards during the performance, using the hand mirror to steer it, gave me the dream-like quality of not being fully in control but exerting some influence in my environment. I wish to create a more Hypnopompic immersion for myself and the audience so the seance and dream realms blend further.