A screen shot from Nam June Paik’s, Tribute to John Cage, 1976, showing John Cage experimenting with a biofeedback device.

Biofeedback and the Arts: Listening as Experimental Practice

2005
New Media Scholarship

This historical and theoretical paper, co-authored with Phillip Thurtle, explores experiments with biofeedback in the arts in order to more fully understand the aesthetic and affective domains of consciousness.

The full paper is archived on the Media Art Histories site. The PDF can be accessed HERE.

ABSTRACT:

Since the 1960’s biofeedback has been incorporated into cognitive science practice with experimental medical and therapeutic research involving both animal and human subjects. Concurrently, feedback was an important model for experimental musicians and conceptual artists working during the 1960’s and 70s with looping, process-based non-linear structures for the evolution of new works. Included within these are John Cage, Alvin Lucier, David Rosenboom, and Nam June Paik whose early experiments with these dynamic processes laid the groundwork for the contemporary avant-garde such as James Fung, Diane Gromala, and Emelia Telese whose biofeedback-based works embody the mind. This paper explores experiments with biofeedback in the arts in order to more fully understand the aesthetic and affective domains of consciousness. Although biofeedback can be used to translate affective dimensions of human experience to graphic representations, many of these artists have used it instead to translate affect to distributed sensory experiences. These new sensory experiences then open affective capacities in a way that allows listening to become a generative experimental practice. In this model consciousness arises through the constitutive aspects of sensory experience, and, once emergent, can then be used to focus new but undetermined affective capacities.

Featured at:
REFRESH: The First International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology, The Banff Centre, Canada, Sept. 28 – Oct. 1, 2005
The 19th Annual Conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts: Emergent Systems, Cognitive Environments, Chicago, IL, Nov. 10-13, 2005