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data art

This Painting Was Made With Someone’s Memories

A tech studio can turn your brainwaves into art with an algorithm.
All images courtesy of random quark.

Memories have been turned into pieces of art in a new project by creative technology studio random quark that scans the brains of people recalling emotional moments in their lives. Sitting in a room, free of noise and bewildering light, an individual puts on an EEG headset and are asked to close their eyes. For 30 seconds they are then told to think of an important memory, whether happy or sad, while the EEG device begins scanning all the electrical activity happening in their brain. This creates a dataset—a unique fingerprint of the individual's memory. Visual similarities, random quark notes, include Andreas Nicolas Fischer's Schwarm, the work of Processing project lead Daniel Shiffman, and that of Theodoros Papatheodorou.


"Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness approached us and wanted to do something that represented emotions in an intuitive way," random quark co-founder Tom Chambers, tells Creators. "They wanted physical artifacts of how someone was feeling and so we started exploring all sorts of ways that there are to measure emotions."

Finding out my tumour was benign (love & surprise).

Measuring the brain for just half a minute, random quark is able to determine what kind of emotion an individual is remembering, deciding to associate positive feeling if more activity is occurring in the brain's left hemisphere such as happy and ascertaining that emotion even further. They probe "What kind of happy are you?" by using the Geneva Emotional Wheel, a standard neuroscience tool.

The final digital artwork titled Mindswarms is mapped based on these results, creating images of joy, sadness, anger, love, disgust, fear and surprise. "If the person feels the day their daughter was born, the top two emotions may be joy and love," explains random quark co-founder Theodoros Papatheodorou. "If the next time the feelings were joy and love, you would have the same colors but you wouldn't have the exact same pattern because the EEG data is not always the same."

My mum had brain surgery (fear & disgust).

The data is reduced and equally decides the sweeping movement of the pieces, an effect based on swarm patterns, similar to birds in flight. "Each particle has an identity and moves around because the data is a kind of structure," says Chambers. "So the flow of the particles is a kind of structure. It's not just random numbers, it's sort of like a perlin noise that has an organic feel to it."


Proposal to my fiancé (love & fear).

While an EEG scanner remains invasive and an unlikely tool to be rolled into homes everywhere, random quark believes that their project shows a future where machines will be able to respond to human emotions, and equally, how art can be used to communicate these emotions on a level free of stigma.

"I think in the future, artists have to become more like programmers in the sense that you can't curate every aspect of the experience and that having sensory input from people is inevitable in shaping what you're seeing," says Chambers. "Those things will be shaped by things like EEG or facial recognition, things to shape experiences for you and shape your journey."

When I was young in my country house in Spain (joy & love).

See more from the London-based creative technology studio random quark here.


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