Caminata Sonora and The Dream MachinePosted by in News
Yesterday morning I led a ‘Caminata Sonora’ (soundwalk) at the Parco Vivero in Coyacan in Mexico City as part of the Cenart series of Arte e Neuvo Sciencia. Vivero is an interesting location as it is ground zero for a major reforesting effort in Mexico City started in the early 20th Century. Rather than a park per se, it consists of a series of plots of various plants and greenhouses filled with seedlings. Millions of trees are planted throughout Mexico City from Vivero seedlings. Over 2000 visitors a day come to Vivero, mostly to exercise.
In addition to my own workshop, I’ve been fortunate to catch a lecture and part of a workshop by conference participant Luciana Haill. Luciana is an Artist-in-Residence of The Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics at the University of Sussex (in the same lab as the SMW’s surfer-scientist interview subject Anil Seth) and her fascinating work involves measuring brain waves in various ‘discrete altered states’ and creating compelling sonifications of the data in real time (using max/msp combines with proprietary software). Above she is shown applying eeg electrodes to the forehead of a volunteer during her talk.
For her workshop, she built a version of Brion Gysin’s 1960′s ‘Dream Machine’, a cardboard cylinder with a specific pattern of holes cut out places on a record player with a light suspended inside. What this creates is a kind of flickering light pattern that a subject experiences through closed eyes. In many people, this pattern encourages a viewer to enter a discrete altered state of consciousness, one in which he or she is still aware and awake, but exhibits more alpha wave activity (as opposed to the usual beta waves). There’s an interesting film that includes a lot of information about the dream machine called ‘flicker’ that also tells some of Gysin’s history as a part of the Beats and close friend of William Burroughs (who, in an interesting historical connection, happened to have shot his wife in Mexico City). Here’s a short clip from the film:
In another weird connection, here’s a yosoy132 poster with an image looking very much like a brain wave analysis subject. While Luciana conducts her work in the most ethical and humanistic way possible, some audience questions to her presentation were concerned with using such devices of control and correction of behavior. She observed that in fact the eeg is being used as a higher-tech lie detector in some interrogations, although the data is not yet accepted as evidence in court.