OCTOPUS BRAIN STORMING: Victoria Vesna in collaboration with neuroscientist Mark Cohen

We live in a clutter of digital devices supporting a structure of social media that permeates, and in many ways controls our society: deciding elections and marketing products, guiding and manipulating our beliefs and, ultimately, leading us to accept binary simulacra of real life and experience.

Octopus Brainstorming offers an alternative dialog of technology and culture, as it uses instrumentation to make public aspects of our being that resist capture by text messages and even conscious intentionality. We are also opening the dialogue of interspecies communication, as well issues around ecology of mind as Bateson presented long ago. Ideas of diversity in global language communication as well as preservation of species and our shared planet is ultimately what we want to brainstorm with the public.

OctopusBrainstorming is also a technologically-mediated dialog between the participant/performers and the audience. The participant/performers both generate, and respond to, the same auditory and visual cues and therefore respond to the emotional and affective outputs of the EEG; they are engaged directly in the dialog.

The vision is to increase the number of participants whose EEG we record, and add the ability to detect signals generated by the audience members that will be incorporated into the displays and environment created by the installation, putting our audience into two-way dialog with the participants.

While doing research for this piece I found out so many fascinating things about the octopus–in nature, in myths, in stories as well as the fact that neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists, technologists and roboticists are all actively researching this mysterious creature. Theirastonishing ability to change shape, color and form fascinates one and all. As anartist, I am interested in having this immersive participatory performance to bring to light all the possibilities, engage directly and spark the imagination of audience.

The non-verbal interaction creates a real time responsive system with sound, color and video –based on the brain wave exchanges, creatinga type of a concertof sound and light with audience participation. In the last version we commissioned jazz artist, KentonChen, to recordeight separate overlapping vocal recordings that are part of a single piece, like eight separate instruments in an octet. Each track was connected to a color and the brainwave synchronies control the mix of these audio tracks. Each of the audio tracks emanates from a different location in the room, giving increased spatial depth to the experience.