Lisa Park is an artist born in the United States and raised in Seoul, South Korea. In 2013, she created her first iteration of Eunoia, which means "beautiful thinking" in Greek. Park studied her neurological emotional states through the use of an EEG brainwave sensor for this performance. The brainwave sensor first measured her brain activity frequencies, then translated that data into sound waves to audibly translate her state of consciousness. The sound waves were also played onto a set of five speakers with trays of water placed on top of them. Each tray represented a different emotion: sadness, anger, hatred, desire, and happiness. The sound waves and their vibrations would then create movement in the water that visually represented Park's state of being. Marsha Vdovin of Cycling 74' describes the work:
"Employing biofeedback sensors, her recent work examines the nexus between organic functions, such as brain waves and heart rate, and technology. The resulting effect is a beautiful rendering of emotions, biological energies and frequencies in synesthetic sonic sculptures. By taking “invisible” energy and emotions and giving them tangible, physical properties, Park metaphorically gives her inner faculties an external presence." Vdovin, Marsha (2 Mar. 2015) An Interview with Lisa Park
In 2014, the artist created Eunoia II, the second iteration of the project on a much larger scale. The artist used 48 plates and speakers for the performance to represent philosopher Baruch Spinoza's 48 states of emotion. For this work, she also used a more advanced brainwave biosensor, the Emotive EPOC headset. This headset not only monitors brain activity, but also emotional states, facial expression, and cognitive activity. The artist explained her motivations for this work in a recent interview:
"By doing this work, I wanted to make a connection between our brainwaves, feelings, and sound/water vibrations because they are all frequencies of energies. I think of water as a mirror of my inner self during this performance, so my work aims to visually reflect the vibrations of my mind by reflecting myself on the surface of the water. The goal of the performance was to reach a moment of complete stillness so that no sound could be heard and no vibrations could be seen on the water." Park, Lisa (23 May 2016) Email interview.
Eunoia and Eunoia II are mesmerizing to watch. The layout of the structure perfectly encompasses ideas of zen meditation. The walk around the structure at the beginning of Eunoia II brings the space to life and the movement of the water is intense despite its simplicity. This beautiful composition of simplicity and intensity is a pillar of Park's work. The artist continues to use EEG data sets in other performance work as well. In 2015, the artist created NUE, a work about metamorphosis inspired by the silkworm (nue meaning a silkworm in Korean). The artist created a real-time sound performance generated by an EEG biosensor and, in doing so, created a site specific installation at 4DSOUND.
For the work, Park wore an white dress that was draped in over 490 ft. of fabric. This was to symbolize the metamorphosis of the silkworm and the struggle it goes through in its transformation to moth. Park collaborated with the 4DSOUND team to create a custom mobile app that would send the biosensor data from the headset she wore to the 4DSOUND system. As she unraveled from the fabric, a soundscape emerged from the data sets the mobile app was transmitting. Park explains the structure of the performance:
"When I was more present and immersed with myself, the concentration values from brainwave headset goes higher, and it resulted a full, harmonic sound. At a certain point, I began to undrape the whole structure of 150 meter of a long dress. It was both physically and mentally intense moment to struggle dragging the long fabric that weighs about 40kg. By the end of the performance I undressed myself as if I was coming out of my ownself to be transformed into another being. Then, I walked away from the space." Park, Lisa (23 May 2016) Email interview.
In both works, Park exercises her keen sense of aesthetics. She also exhibits her artful use of bio sensor data, which can often be unruly and hard to interpret. The artist somehow manages to make hard sets of data feel totally organic, though NUE feels much less concealed than Eunoia II. Park was able to make the entire space of NUE come alive with the sounds. The 4DSOUND structure wove a narrative as she performed making the artist work much more transparent. On the other hand, Eunoia II feels cryptic. While the sound is expressing both the emotions and movement of Park in NUE, her emotions are entirely private in the other work leaving the audience to wonder and contemplate.
Park is not the only contemporary artist working with new EEG technologies. Mats Sivertsen created subCONCH, an interactive installation in 2013 that allowed the wearer of the brainwave headset to control sound and light with their minds. Sivertsen created this by developing a software application that serves an an instrument that can be played with the mind. Brainwave sensor data changes different aspects of the instruments sound, such as pitch, wave form, and modulation. He then put this application into a physical form of a conch shell (a play on subconscious) and prompts visitors at a gallery to think hard on a wish or desire. This mental concentration translates into different sound forms and lighting changes in the room.
Both Park and Sivertsen create beautiful and supernatural scenarios with their biosensor based artworks. Park creates a sort of mysticism in Eunoia and Eunoia II through the moving of the water and the performative layer of the work leaves audiences in awe and slight disbelief. On the other hand, Sivertsen allowing visitors to wear the technology puts the virtue in their hands leaving them with a sense of empowerment and glory. The scenario he forms in subCONCH allows visitors to feel as though they've unlocked a hidden secret. Either way, Park and Sivertsen both nail the idea of telekinesis with modern technology and contemporary art.