Reflecting on Cinematica at Arcadia

Rosa Francesca reflects on her recent Nest-supported exhibition at Arcadia Gallery

From January 11th-16th I was at Arcadia Gallery in Coventry for a second showing of my project Cinematica, which uses an EEG brain monitor in combination with a pen plotter to create brain-controlled drawings. Members of the public were invited to come in to the gallery and have a go at creating a drawing by trying on the Muse headband and watching the plotter work. Drawings were either kept by the participants, or displayed on the wall.

A13A92AA-9E3A-4EB5-82F5-49C5B8818B59For this second exhibition I changed the design to a sort of geometric flower that moved in a clockwise direction. I found that having a circular design benefitted the project as the pen was far less likely to travel beyond the limits of the plotter and therefore I didn’t have to keep stopping the program to reposition the pen, but also because moving in a repeated clockwise motion meant it was easier to spot variations in brainwaves. I continued to alter the design during the exhibition between visitors, changing the size and shapes slightly. I also found that there was a lot of variation between my brainwaves and brainwaves of participants, so on the third day of the exhibition I began to spend more time on calibration; I would set them up with the brain monitor, look at the programme for a while to see the values coming in from the EEG, so that I could figure out the range of their waves and adjust the programme accordingly.

One of the most interesting findings was when a man brought in his eight-year-old daughter. Although her brainwaves showed on the Muse Monitor app (the app I use to read the EEG waves via bluetooth), no data appeared in the computer programme that the brainwaves are streamed into and therefore I was unable to draw anything. Numbers either displayed as 0 or ‘-inf’. Initially I considered that this was because children’s brains are known to have vastly different EEG results than adults, as their brains are less developed. However, the next day I saw a young child of around three years old who had very clear results in a similar range to some of the adults who had visited. From this I can only guess that the first girl had just not been able to fit the monitor properly, for example if it was not tight enough or not positioned at the right height on her forehead.

B95FBE0F-B0D2-42FD-9915-60FC6963D447For the next outing I would like to improve some of the technical aspects; I need to get used to the routine of calibrating and making sure I explain properly how to wear the brain monitor, as some people had difficulty fitting the headband and therefore there was a weak connection (and in one case, non-existent). I would possibly use better quality paper, and better pens. Sometimes the ink came out too light, partly because of bad quality pens, but also because I needed to adjust motor speed so that the pen was spending long enough in one spot for the ink to reach the page. I also need to work on getting the drawings more centered so that there is more consistency when comparing drawings. It was suggested that I pick shapes such as lines that are easy to compare as well, which is something I intend to work on throughout this year.

There was an overwhelmingly positive response to the work. The majority of visitors were other artists who had found out about my work through Twitter or Instagram, and a couple of people who also worked in the City Arcade also came in to try it out. Some visitors had specific interests in plotters and fabrication so they were particularly excited by this project. I felt that it was a great opportunity to network with Coventry artists and get to know the scene. I’m excited to continue developing this project as the years goes on!

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[Photos from Rosa’s Twitter Feed @RosaFrancsArt]

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