Electric Stimulus to Face
Electric Stimulus to Face is a performance created by Daito Manabe that features human facial expressions created by sound. This is possible through the utilization of myoelectric sensors that stimulate muscles in the face to twitch. This twitching is caused by a specified, tonal output. Through sequencing these myoelectric sensors in a particular order, a composition is created. Electric Stimulus is a very surreal experience; the viewer witnesses a person’s face contorting into seemingly uncomfortable positions by uncomfortable means.
Like some of Manabe’s other works, this piece takes the organic body of a human being and melds it with the mechanical forms of technology. He experiments with how one can enhance the human body for the sake of art. This work changes how people generally feel they relate to technology with their bodies; these are almost always seen as separate entities, what happens when these two are combined? How do we relate to our technology differently if it is integrated into how we biologically function? Not merely discussing things that track our functions, like what is seen in common wearables, but
This work is spawned by the desire to artificially re-create facial expressions. “A machine can simulate a perfect smile, but it fails to look like a real smile until you put the emotions behind it.” Teruoka, Masaki via Daito Manabe via Motherboard (2011, June 08). This inspired Manabe to spend time experimenting with electrical impulses to create desired facial expressions. As stated by Teruoka, the technology was not able to yield the “perfect smile” that Manabe had set out for. Yet these “failures” create Electric Stimulus. By taking a technology that is considered mundane or even fully understood, and using it “incorrectly” Manabe is able to create work that becomes new and innovative.
While a lot of digital art prides itself on seamlessness, hiding the wire and code guts of what makes each piece tick, Manabe’s work embraces the functional aesthetic of these tools, focusing his creative energy on conveying a thought-provoking performance. Sitting on stage and altering sound with various facial expressions has this effect without fail. Holmes, Kevin (2013, Jan. 3).
Manabe’s experiments attempt to meld the human body with technology, looking at how it can be used in conjunction with ourselves, rather than a separate entity, creating a hybrid of man and machine. After all, the human body itself is a machine—an incredibly well functioning organic machine. Holmes, Kevin (2010, Dec. 16).
Science fiction has discussed the possibility that some day humans and machines will be interconnected, creating cyborgs. How will that be achieved if no one experiments with these ideas? Manabe playfully addresses these ideas in his work and brings them front and center in his YouTube videos. These technologies are not things of the distant future, but of right now.
Another of Manabe’s works discusses human interaction with technology, however from a fairly different perspective. 24 Drone Flight discusses human interaction with drones. As consumer-grade drone technology exists at this point in time, they aren’t that easily controlled, and can be fairly hazardous to operate; having one fly at close proximity to your head can be a harrowing experience. However, in 24 Drone Flight, Manabe, along with his collaborators at Rhizomatiks, creates a choreographed performance where the drones do just that; 24 drones seamlessly fly closely around a performer, without once striking him, or each other. This piece is a speculative look into the future of humanity’s interaction with technology; drones are already delivering some packages, who’s to say that this technology will not continue to grow and become a ubiquitous delivery system? If, but more of when this takes place, humans won’t be ducking in fear of being whacked by an errant drone, but merely exist with them, as is showcased in 24 Drone Flight.
Stelarc experimented with electrical impulses and their effects on movement of the body in a piece entitled Ping Body. In this piece, the artist was attached to several electrodes that were connected to a computer that allowed remote participants to send ‘pings’ that would ultimately send impulses to the artist’s body through the electrodes. This gave the audience almost full control of Stelarc’s movement, though he was also outfitted with a mechanical third arm that he was able to manipulate himself, adding an extra element of control to the system. This ultimately led the body to become “the object of inspection in the network, rather than the subject that surfs the Web.” Shanken, Edward A. via Art and Electronic Media (2009, Aug. 31). Both Manabe and Stelarc explore the ideas associated with electrical impulses, created by electronic media, interact with the human body.
Electric Stimulus to Face has been performed at the following locations:
- 2008, Digital Art Festival, Tokyo
- 2009, Youtube Live Event
- 2009, Ars Electrica Center Opening Ceremony
- 2009, Harjuku Performance +