Eyes Control Light and Sound in a Cybernetic Feedback Experience

Indonesian artist Riar Rizaldi uses the eye as an instrument to trigger an audiovisual installation.

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31 August 2016, 5:40pm

Images courtesy the artist

In cinema, the human eye lies behind the camera filming a motion picture, and in front of the screen experiencing the finished product. Placing the human eye at the fulcrum between filming and viewing, Indonesian artist Riar Rizaldi takes this experiment quite literally.

During his performance titled The Act of Seeing, Rizaldi sits in front of a digital projector wearing electrodes that measure electrical potential from his eye muscle movements. These electrooculargraphic signals (EOGs) are then generated into prepared visuals using software written by Rizaldi, determining the video’s colors and frame rate. The visuals are then projected back onto his body, with the light triggering his eye muscles, creating a feedback loop of audiovisual cinema. Also included in the feedback loop is audio generated by Rizaldi’s eye muscle movements.

Rizaldi tells The Creators Project that The Act of Seeing originated when he found that Paul Sharits’ early flicker films had a physical impact on his body, especially his eyes. He discovered that he blinked more than usual due to the flicker light emitted by the film.

“As an artist who works predominantly on the relationship between audio and motion images, I was really interested in combining this physical effect on my body with performative cinema in contemporary digital era,” Rizaldi says. “I started experimenting with the idea of body intervention, where the eye became an instrument to produce audiovisuals. Then, the idea of looping system between the eye and audiovisual was born.”

Rizaldi was also inspired by Alvin Lucier’s piece "Music for Solo Performer," where the artist amplified his brainwaves to create sounds from moving objects on the percussion set. He was also influenced by James Whitney’s generative computer art films, and the expanded cinema performances of Junichi Okuyama, who interacted with projector beams and flickers.  

To create The Act of Seeing, Rizaldi built the software in Processing. He then connected an Arduino to an Electrooculogram circuit board, which he routed to electrode patches attached to his face.

As Rizaldi muses about his system, the feedback loop he creates in The Act of Seeing makes viewers question who is really in control: human or machine? As we move forward with wearable technology and even cybernetics, this question will have to be asked and answered.

The Act of Seeing - performance (preview) from Riar Rizaldi on Vimeo.

Click here to see more of Riar Rizaldi’s work.

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