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Brain Activity As Augmented By Kinect And Neon Lights

The latest pieces in Uruguayan artist Fernando Velázquez’s Mindscape Series.

by Erica Gonsales
23 August 2012, 10:17pm

Since 2010, Uruguay-born, Brazil-based artist Fernando Velázquez has been continuously working on The Mindscape Series, a collection of multimedia works that encompass videos, prints, interactive installations, and live performances.

His current solo exhibition at the Zipper Gallery in São Paulo shows two new Mindscape pieces: an interactive installation that uses Kinect, and a neon artwork featuring the word "saudade" (a Portuguese word related to longing, yearning, and nostalgia), wherein visitors can modify the piece’s vibrations.

Velázquez also explained how his new pieces work:

The Kinect installation

The installation format for this [piece in the] Mindscape series has been varying according to the space and the curatorial proposal. I've been showing it with sensors, MIDI controllers, keyboards, iPads, and this time I'm using Kinect, which is a complete change in the sense that now it interacts with the whole body. At first I wanted to propose an immersive experience that would call the whole body to action, but then when we started to assemble it at Zipper Gallery, the project became more ambitious.

In addition to changing the interactive gadgetry, there's also a significant difference in the assembled scale. The gallery's space changed my plans and I started to work with it. The projections at Zipper take up a 30×65 foot wall. It lights up according to visitors' actions, changing not only the environment, but also other pieces in that space.

The Saudade piece:

Using a word is a new approach in this series' installation format, but it's part of Mindscape in its audiovisual performance format. This word evokes the language as an interface with the world in my imagery. "Saudade" is a unique Portuguese word, and it's really hard to translate. It evokes past, present, and future at the same time. It's a great neural, sensitive map full of mental images.

In this installation, thanks to some modification to the neon system, each light vibrates at a different frequency, which visitors can change through a dimmer. With this [tool], I draw an analogy with memory, which is now understood by neuroscience as something dynamic that is constantly changing. Every time we activate our memories, a complex neural map is called to action. It's modified in real time according to the individual's interests for that specific moment, and then again stored in a new neural map.

Despite his two-year dedication to the Mindscape Series, Velázquez has been working on other projects as well, including working on live concert visuals. "I'll be at the release show for the Plínio Marcos, em Prosa e Samba album at the end of September. Working with musicians such as Kiko Dinucci, Juçara Marçal, and others is a very enriching experience. It's with those interdisciplinary exchanges that we can come up with new ideas," he says. "There's a series of topics and subjects that move me, such as identity, landscape, and perception. I try to keep up with several different projects because I believe that every creative, thoughtful activity can fuel my body of work."

Along those lines, we took the opportunity to hear his thoughts about Brazilian artist Rick Silva, whom we've recently talked to about his En Plein Air series. The two artists are part of an exhibition in Colorado at BMoCA, inspired by Stan Brakhage and curated by David Dadone and Petra Sertic.

His work is riveting, especially the way he connects space and the representation of it. In the En Plein Air series, for example, he updates a Michael Snow video from the 70s. The reference to Snow's film is clear right from the start, but with a generative algorithm created with video game software, every loop makes Rick's version different. I also really like the Colorado video.

Images by: Ding Musa

interactive installation
Fernando Velázquez
Mindscape Series
neon art