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The World's First "Brainwave Opera" Is a Mind-F*ck

The story of covert WWII operative Noor Inayat Khan becomes a neurologically-driven performance.
Images courtesy the artist

A performer’s electroencephalogram (EEG) brain waves manifest into an assemblage of colored bubbles in the "first-ever" brain opera. Noor: A Brain Opera debuted on May 16th at the International Society of Electronic Arts in Hong Kong, a fully immersive, 360-degree theater, completely surrounded by projector screens. The opera asks a simple question, “Is there a place in human consciousness where the surveillance cannot go?” One performer is linked up with an Emotiv EEG headset that monitors brain activity. As the performer’s emotional state changes, their brain waves launch randomized databanks of abstract video footage as well as colored bubbles that signify different emotions: yellow for excitement, pink for interest, turquoise for meditation, and red for frustration.


Ellen Pearlman, director and curator at the Volumetric Society, acts as the show’s libretto. In conversation with the performer, Pearlman tells the story of Noor Inayat Khan, a covert wireless operative inside Nazi occupied France during WWII. The violent tale is meant to trigger different emotional responses. Throughout the narrative, the audience looks on at the performer’s brainwaves in real time through an eclectic assortment of videos and sounds—an abstract visual representation of what is going in someone’s head. Sometimes the performer’s emotional thresholds weren’t high enough, and the theater went dark. Watch a video of the performance below:

For more information about the Noor: The Brain Opera, head over to the show’s Facebook page.


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