What would it be like to hear and see the rhythms of a human’s thinking mind? Recent advances in neuroscience led by Dr. Josef Parvizi make it possible to record the electro-potentials of nerve cells firing inside a living human brain. The resulting data is rich to behold, yet its meaning remains a challenge to decode.
With the 15.1 channel audio and video art installation Gnosisong, Chris Chafe and Greg Niemeyer seek to illustrate the drama of the thinking brain. Based on the scientific data of neural activity, their sonifications and animations show parts of thoughts resonating with each other, at times coming together, at times drifting apart. Gnosisong premiered in the Centro de Cultura Digital in Mexico City on Aug 28, 2015. A 5-minute excerpt of the 21-minute installation, with the audio mix-down to two channels, is featured above. More versions of the video are linked in the archive.
The project is all art rather than neuroscience, as it aims to bring viewers closer to the mystery of thought. As one viewer at the Mexico City premiere stated: “The more I watch this movie, the more I love my mind”. This observation resonates with Kant's comment about fires and water, which "ihr freies Spiel unterhalten" or "support the free play of the mind". Perhaps we see our own mind at work in the image of another mind, because the frequencies of the image and of the neural activity resonate. These frequencies, as Kant suspected, match the flow of water and the flicker of the flame. Their resonances with the mind open a path to a visuality that sees its own apparatus.
Special thanks to Meyer Sound for support and equipment loans.