Vibratory Fields: Artists as Neural Orchestrators, Cartographers, and Translators

Vibratory Fields: Artists as Neural Orchestrators, Cartographers, and Translators

Cristina Albu

DESMA 9 & HONORS 160 | Art, Science and Technology Lecture Series
10 May 2023 - 2:30pm

Starting with the late 1960s, artists have experimented with neurofeedback techniques to unveil that we can model our brainwave oscillations in relation to sounds and images that signal our transition into meditative states. Cultivating enchantment with the agency we can develop over unconscious processes and the non-verbal connections we mentally establish with others, they have invited us to reflect on the intrinsic alterity of our inner and outer worlds.
In this talk, I map out a genealogy of artworks informed by the aesthetics of neural networks and their dynamic behavior. I argue that the diversity of these practices results not only from the artists' original coupling of multiple media of expression but also from their imaginative blending of ideas derived from phenomenology, biofeedback experimentation, cybernetic theories, and Southeast Asian philosophies. I delineate a taxonomy of artworks encompassing neural data and I discuss how they catalyze speculative thinking about biological, cultural, and social entanglements.

About Cristina Albu:
Cristina Albu is an art historian, educator, and writer focusing on crossovers between contemporary art, cognitive sciences, and technology. She is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). Albu is the author of Mirror Affect: Seeing Self, Observing Others in Contemporary Art (Minnesota University Press, 2016) and the co-editor (with Dawna Schuld) of Perception and Agency in Shared Spaces of Contemporary Art (Routledge, 2018). Her writings have appeared in scholarly anthologies (e.g. Nervous Systems, Hybrid Practices, Framings, The Permanence of the Transient, Crossing Cultures) and journals (e.g. Afterimage, Artnodes, Camera Obscura, and the Comparative Media Arts Journal). At UMKC, Albu teaches courses on global contemporary art, participatory and site-specific tendencies, museum studies, and the role of emotion in art reception. She is currently working on a book which charts how artists have paired neurofeedback technology with sounds and video images to cultivate an embodied understanding of our entanglement in more or less visible systems.


More info:


Image description: Nina Sobell, EEG: Video Telemetry Environment (also known as Brainwave Drawings, 1975), installation at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston.