Eunoia- beautiful thoughts

American-born and Korean-raised, Lisa Park is a multidisciplinary artist who is currently based in New York. In the past few years, she started experimenting with biosensors (brainwave, heart-rate monitoring devices) as a vehicle for manifesting her inner states. Park’s recent performances “Eunoia” and “Eunoia II” involved using a commercial brainwave(EEG) headset as a self-monitoring tool to obtain real-time feedback of her emotional reactions. The performances were done in an attempt to visually reflect the vibrations of the mind by expressing herself on the surface of the water.

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Richard Bright: What were the intentions of  Eunoia and Eunoia II?

Lisa Park: The reason why I started the Eunoia project was I wanted to find a way to visualise my emotions and mind-scape, so I did some research about working with biosensors and brainwave sensors and then I began using the commodity as a tool as part of my work. I began experimenting with a specialized device called a NeuroSky EEG headset that helps transform brain activity into streams of data. I wanted to do a work using some kind of meditation. This is in real time so I am able to listen and watch, moving around and seeing the water vibrations. The water vibrations are made by modulations of sound and the modulations change depending on whether I am anxious or whether I am meditating. The volume goes either up or down, or speed gets faster or slower depending on “Attention” “Meditation” values from EEG headset along with the other brain frequency waves. So it’s a real time experience for me to kind of understand myself.

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RB: So the first work was about stilling the water, getting yourself in a meditative state, and the second one was using various emotions? There are two aspects to the project?

LP: Yes, they were similar, but there is a very slight difference. For both Eunoia and Eunoia II, the performances was done in an attempt to visually reflect the vibrations of the mind by expressing myself on the surface of the water.

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In Eunoia, with the five pools of water, it was about calming my emotional state. It was trying to meditate or calm myself. As far as Eunoia II was concerned, I was focussing more on the emotional aspect. It all depends on which EEG brainwave headset I would use. The first one I used, that the company had designed, is able to detect the brainwave frequencies, Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma and Theta, but it also detects the Attention in Meditation. So I was using those input values in Eunoia, the first piece. For Eunoia II, the headset that I used was more advanced so it was able to detect not only the brain frequency waves but it was also able to detect facial expression and emotional states, such as Frustration, Meditation, Engagement/Boredom, Excitement, those kind of emotional values.

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The layout of “Eunoia II”inspired by the structure of Gankyil, the symbol of East Asian Buddhism. It represents universal energies: Yin, Yang, and Zhong. It means “balance”. So I was using this as a motif to the design of the installation, which would have 48 different speakers and pools of water. The work was inspired by the Dutch philosopher Spinoza’s analysis on “48 categories of the human emotions”classified in his book Ethica.

RB: The use of water in both of these works has a certain significance with the make-up of the human body. This is obviously intentional. Both pieces use brainwaves (frequencies of brain activity: Alpha, Beta, Delta etc) relating to your state of consciousness at that moment in time –which are collected via an EEG sensor to generate sound and manipulate the motions of water. Can you say something about the technical process of this and, particularly, are the water vibrations showing brain waves? Is there a direct correspondence between what you’re feeling and what is happening?

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