Upon entering the installation (a small, dark room), the visitor is greeted by a large, cone shaped chair surrounded by rhythmically pulsing ultraviolet lights. They are invited to sit in the chair and upon doing so feel the same rhythm pulsing through their body from the base of the chair. After being granted consent, a device is fitted to their forehead. Upon doing so, the wall in front of them is covered in an animated image, projected from a shelf installed on the wall behind them. As they move their eyes around the wall the image orientation moves. The image constantly seems to shift and change in front of them. They are instructed to relax and try to focus on the sensations they feel through their body. As they relax the image changes more and more, whilst the rhythm of the pulsing light and chair seems to shift slowly over time. When they are ready to leave, the device is removed and they exit, possibly feeling more relaxed and calm than when they entered.
To fit the shaker to the chair, I intend to modify the universal bracket that was delivered with it. I decided on this process after discussing the project with Will Strong of the NewBridge Project, who has experience in metal work having worked on Tom Gray’s piece from last year’s Render, as well as his own undergraduate sculpture work at Newcastle University. Following this meeting, as well as project discussion with Jamie Allen, I decided the optimal setup would be to reinforce the conical frame of the chair with wood, and tightening the spokes with cable ties to solidify the structure. After removing extraneous sections of the bracket through grinding, the bracket would be screwed into the reinforced centre of the dish, effectively creating a vibration pad in the centre of the chair. As the bracket is designed for use with the Buttkicker, the shaker then screws easily into the bracket. This is then tightened with additional washers to optimize the effectiveness of the shaker. For an optimal setup, I would reverse engineer the chair and rebuild it in iron or steel, welding it to ensure maximum structural integrity. However, this would likely be an expensive and lengthy project, so for now I will continue to use the bamboo papasan. Will also suggested I contact Stephen Rowarth, SACS Technician for Newcastle University, as he who would be able to advise me on how to best reinforce the structure of the chair and modify the bracket. I have contacted him and am currently trying to arrange a meeting. If I wanted to explore making the piece in different materials, Rowarth and Strong would likely be very useful for assistance in design and construction.
The cone of the chair is placed on top of a circular base, cupping the bowl of the chair. In the product information for the Buttkicker, the designers suggest building a monitoring platform with rubber feet, separating the shaker from the floor to insulate the vibration. To support the bowl, I considered obtaining an old tractor tyre from a scrap yard, which would cradle the chair and insulate it. Having discussed this idea with Jamie Allen, he suggested instead that I should use a number of tapered feet attached to the original frame whilst firmly attaching the chair to the base via clamps. In the coming months I intend to explore both options, using the strategy that provides the best results: maximum vibration and maximum stability.
The shaker is unpowered, and so must be used in conjunction with a power amplifier. For this piece I intend to use the BKA 1000-4 power amplifier, which is supplied alongside the shaker with the kit I purchased. The amp powers the shaker via a Speakon cable, receiving the signal from the line out on an additional amplifier. For this amplifier, I intend to recondition an old JVC VS-DT6R compact component system, which would then feed the signal to the BKA via the aux out. The signal could be played on VS-DT6R using the inbuilt CD player, or from an Mp3 player via the aux in. Alternatively, I could explore building a bespoke amp, based around an LM386. However, for the sake of ease, I will concentrate on reconditioning the JVC. This amplifier will also connect to a TIP31c transistor, run off the aux out via a cable splitter and customized adapter. This transistor would then be connected to a number of ultra-violet LEDs. By soldering the transistor to a 3.5mm jack and cable, the audio signal from the amplifier amplifies the power running to the LEDs, effectively synchronizing the light and the audio. These LEDs can then be used to decorate the chair, dynamically lighting the piece and arguably amplifying the sense of entrainment. Due to the expense of UV LEDs, another area would be to experiment with hacking UV tube lights, simply installing the transistor into the circuitry in the lights housing. These lights could then be distributed around the chair to light it.
To measure the EEG, I intend to use a BioWave. The sensor is connected via a connector and core wires to the Arduino board in a similar manner to a potentiometer. I will the run the data from the Biowave via Arduino into Processing using the techniques developed in Arduino meets Processing for Webzone.k3. Once I have the EEG data in Processing, I will utilize it in a visualization sketch in a manner similar to earlier audio visualization sketches, developed from Anthony Mattox’s template. To plot the data, I intend to explore fractal techniques explored by Dan Shiffman in Learning Processing, and the Pythagoras Tree code developed by mnt and blindfish on Processing Discourse. The Pythagoras Tree code uses the mouse X location to effect and widen the spiral. When utilized in conjunction with the Biowave, this function could be manipulated through electrooculography (EOG), with the user’s eye movement affecting the appearance of the visual. I would also like to use EEG to manipulate the size of the squares from which the fractal is constructed, similar to my use of audio in my audio visualizers. It could also possibly be used to manipulate colour in a similar manner to the music visualisers. In order to test the EEG unit, I intend to also make use of oscilloscope, as well as the Biowave Max patch. Once I know what sort of data to expect from the EEG, I can begin experimenting with the visual plotting of that data.
To compose the signal, I am currently experimenting with Ableton Live and Cubase. In order to create binaural and monaural beats I am currently working with Operator, the synthesizer that comes with Ableton Live. By creating two versions of the synthesizer, setting the frequency of them slightly apart. The same midi sequence is then sent to both instruments. Whilst the sequence is playing, I will alter the beats by changing the frequency of the synths. To create binaural beats, the two tracks are panned in either direction, one completely to the left and the other to the right. The binaural beats can then be experienced through headphones. When binaural beats are played through a speaker, they become monaural beats. When sending the signal to the Buttkicker, I will send it in mono, panning both tracks in the same direction. As there is no left and right channel when working with a single Buttkicker, there is no left or right channel. In order to create audible monaural beats, I am also considering including speakers in the installation, or alternatively including a set of headphones so that the beats can be experienced binaurally.
As I have managed to gather most of the equipment I plan to utilize in the piece, I plan to spend the next month building the unit and the subsequent months testing and modifying it. This includes experimenting with suspending the chair, modifying the code, developing the composition and examining the aesthetics of the piece as an installation. Thematically, the piece is similar to the ‘Penfield Mood Organ’ of Phillip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? There are also themes of engineering, biomechanics and mathematics and divinity. Gothic and the biomechanical are major themes in the work of H R Giger, of whom I am a fan. The visual design of the film Event Horizon also makes use of gothic imagery set alongside advanced technology and engineering. I would like to explore these ideas in the aesthetics of the installation, modifying and decorating the chair and headset so that they are in keeping with the original themes. I plan to make use of parts sourced from scrap yards, including engine parts, piping and industrial cabling. The aim is to make the installation as immersive as possible, in order to heighten the sense of entrainment.
I am also interested in organizing a number of user studies to aid in the development of the piece. These studies would include volunteers from amongst classmates, colleagues and friends, as well as studies conducted with the assistance of the medical community. During my research I contacted professor Janet Wilson at ENT (Ear Nose & Throat) at the Freeman Hospital. She expressed interest in the piece, and in organizing a study involving outpatients in the department. Since the piece effectively provides a visual and tactile representation of sound, a sense of hearing is not necessarily required to appreciate it. Furthermore, this technology has benefits in enabling those with audial disabilities to perceive audio media. Professor Wilson also suggested contacting EEG technician’s with the neuroscience department, who would likely be interested in seeing alternative ways of plotting the data. I am very eager to explore these areas further, as access to medical grade EEG monitoring equipment could provide interesting, high quality data for manipulation within a visual program. …(Sally’s potential job) also operates a visual stimulation lab, which is an area I would also like to explore. Entrainment techniques and technologies, such as Photic Driving, has been used for anxiety therapy in the past, and there is ongoing research into its use by David Siever, with research conducted into Chronic Fatigue, Chronic Pain, Depression, Hypertension, Premenstrual syndrome and a number of other disorders. I would be interested to learn if the design of the piece would be of use as a therapeutic technology. The BKA 100-4 can operate up to four smaller Buttkicker LFE units, which the Guitammer Company suggest using when setting up home entertainment systems with multiple seats. If the first unit is successful, I would be interested in exploring the idea of multiple units installed as a suite.
With regard to installing the piece for exhibition, I intend to construct a small room using paneling and curtains. This enclosure will then be extensively decorated so that is in keeping with the theme of the installation. I aim to explore these themes of mathematics, engineering, biomechanics, and neurology by covering the walls with scraps of William Morris inspired ‘Binary Wallpaper’ as well as portraits and prints based on retinal photography and x-rays. I intend to source these images myself using my contacts at the hospital as well as my own retinal screening appointments. These images will then be edited in Adobe Photoshop. The installation will also be decorated with machine parts sourced form scrap yards, fibre optic cables and rubber piping. I intend to do much of the invigilation for the piece myself. Given the value of the equipment as well as the potential complexities users might encounter, I feel it would be best to be in attendance as much as possible. For times when I am unavailable, I intend to provide full setup and user instructions for whoever is invigilating at that time.