The following post from Wired.com does a terrific job explaining the creative and technological impact of Lisa Park’s bold and brave performance installation, entitled Eunoia II, which uses neural feedback technology to physically manifest her emotions as ripples in pools of water. Park, who received her BFA in Fine Art at Art Center, uses her project to implicitly make the very compelling point that the spectrum of human emotion, from placid to roiling, is to be embraced and harnessed as the source of our creativity, vitality and individuality. Rather than building bridges over troubled water; Park’s work encourages us to splash around in those turbulent tides. In essence, Park’s evocative installation reveals the exquisite and fleeting beauty in a feeling, regardless of where it falls on the pleasure-pain scale.
Lisa Park does not have telekinesis—you can tell by the EEG headset affixed to her skull. But if you ignore the black sensors wrapped around her head and watch the pools of water below, it looks as though she’s pulling off some serious Carrie-style mind manipulation.
In Eunoia II, Park controls 48 pools of water using just her brainwaves. The rippling water appears to move through sheer will, but it’s actually the result 14 EEG sensors capturing Park’s emotions and translating them into sound waves. The music pipes through speakers attached to the bottom of each plate and causes the water to vibrate. On command Park can increase the volume of music or change the intensity of vibrations in the pools of water. Think of it as a direct visualization of what Park is feeling at any given moment.
Eunoia II is a continuation (and expansion) of Eunoia, a similar installation Park created last year while a student at New York University’s ITP program. In the previous iteration of the installation, Park controlled five pools of water, each of which had speakers underneath to induce the vibrating. The goal in the original Euonia project was to make her mind as still as possible—any motion you saw in the water was evidence of Park’s mind beginning to wander. Euonia II is all about expressing emotion. The 48 speakers are a nod to the 48 emotions the philosopher Baruch Spinoza described in his book Ethics.
Park’s project isn’t a reflection of all 48 of Spinoza’s emotions. Rather, she focuses on just a few to control the water’s movement. For example, increasing her frustration levels modulates the volume of the music; the more frustrated Park becomes, the more intense the vibration of the water. When Park is calm or meditative, the frequency of the vibrations slows down. She pans the sound waves around the room by controlling her levels of excitement and engagement. In that way, Park is effectively choreographing the movement with her mind. It’s not a perfect science—water moves unexpectedly as the mind reacts to its environment. But you can imagine that the better Park becomes at controlling her thoughts and feelings, the more complex the instillation has the potential to become.
Eunoia is far from the first project to translate neural feedback into art. We recently featured a project that allowed people to create Pollock-esque paintings with brainwaves by popping a balloon full of paint. Other artists have harnessed EEG headsets to paint with digital paint brushes, they’ve created knitted clothes based on brainwave patterns and plenty of musicians have created EEG-enabled audio installations. Park’s work is just another example of this exploration, but it feels intensely visceral compared to most. In Eunoia II you can practically feel Park’s thoughts radiating from her brain straight to the pools of water. If only all human emotion were this easy to read.