Flickering Phrontisterion

In this interactive, participatory artwork the Brainwaves of participants are monitored whilst experiencing a Dream Machine, invoking the phenomena Flicker via neurofeedback. Emergent sonic guides and voices recede, new ideas come to the fore. The resulting Hypnagogic & Hypnopompic brainwaves are fed-back to the participant, and change the sonification. In a secluded space, eyes closed, reclined in an air-pumped Dentist chair, they float back down, where time disappeared – experiencing Reverie, increased Theta waves. Feedback has shown increased relaxation, refreshed creativity and non linear thinking.

Luciana Haill Flicker image 1

“The Phrontesterion”: a symbiosis of Flicker and Brainwaves effecting an intricate multi layered sound space.

The Dreamachine was designed by artist Brion Gysin with mathematician Ian Sommerville in the late 1950s, famously used in symbiotic creative sessions with William Burroughs. In “The Phrontesterion” I present a traditional precisely pierced laser-cut cylinder atop a spinning record deck creating the hypnotically flickering ( 8-12 cycles per second, equivalent to an Alpha wave in EEG ), photically stimulating phenomena of “flicker”with a dodecahedron multi-LED bulb. This encourages Hypnagogic & Hypnopompic states of non-linear narratives, random images and ideas, and some Entoptic visuals.  During this process the EEG signal is monitored across the forehead and I project the brainwaves across the external environment. As the participant’s desired Alpha and interestingly Theta waves (4-8Hz) are produced they are interact with my soundtrack and are fed-back by remixing the levels of each brainwave activated track in the multi layered piece, the EEG is sonified. All this occurs in a reclining oil/air-pumped Dentist chair. The experience begins with raising up and ends with the physical floating back down, Reverie in Theta waves where time is lost –  “I am that I am”… ?

Reactions seen below, reports left in writing reveal loss of sense of realtime, inspiring, rejuvenating, one was too dark ( negative ) and many gratitudes – as accompanied by the EEG shown to onlookers on the laptop ( Prefrontals 1 & 2) – mostly Theta /Alpha… The 12 track layered soundscape is still underconstruction – so mixed reviews to use of voices (mine under modulation and a lady) effected by Beta brainwaves occasionally interrupting the atmosphere (talking of beliefs about leaving the body and spirit worlds from tribal cultures). Positive response mainly to the hypnotically soothing “I am that I am” female vocal, looped and activated by Theta entrainment (desired state). Another person was invited to ‘listen in’ to each participant, also helping comparison to the dynamics potentially heard – differing from their interactive audio possibly. Some people were content just with that level of witness, and explanation by myself and assistant present throughout the entire event.

Most participants spent 12-15 minutes in the dentist’s chair … raised for correct eye-level to the Nanobulb within the dreamachine postioned in front of them on a trolley, and lowered (Air/oil, smoothly) as we finish the experience, a lovely glide back into a darker reality without flicker. So, most perceived 5 minutes had passed in total, an interesting side-effect of flicker. Two articipants fell asleep and one was watched during the PV night by an audience as he gaped and snored..( photo below ) and we listened in to his deeper, slower EEG sonifications.


Luciana Haill Flicker 4

Luciana Haill Flicker 3

Luciana Haill Flicker 5

View images and videos from site specific installations:
(i)   Phrontesterion, The Kinetica Art Fair, London, 2014
(ii)  Phrontesterion, The Transmission Symposium, Bournemouth, 2015
(iii) Phrontesterion ‘I AM THAT I AM’, KIBLA, Maribor, Slovenia, 2015
(iv) Phrontesterion ‘I AM THAT I AM’, The Royal Academy, London, 2015
(v) Phrontesterion, ‘I AM THAT I AM’, Frequency Festival, Lincoln, 2015

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