New Brain Scan Movie - "Desire"

Posted by W. Logan Fry | Sat Dec 17th 2005 9:31 a.m.

If my work is about anything, it is about modularity and remixability (Lev Manovich); I merely refer to it as cultural transformation, where an object like an early Intel EPROM chip can transform across multiple media and platforms. Such transformation is almost definitional for humans; digital technology merely gives new tools. Indeed, we are now on the verge of the realization of the observation: "All art can be reduced to a sequence of binary bits, zeros and ones in endless succession."

Digital technology also increases the speed of transformation. Ray Kurzweil observes: "Time exponentially speeds up." And so it is with the cyclical transformations we now experience at an ever increasing pace.

"Desire" embodies modularity, remixability and transformation; and a fourth stage of cultural evolution: neogenesis.

1. Modularity - The key component of "Desire" is an image sequence from an MRI brain scan conducted at Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin (Madison); part of a series spanning six months (and three separate scans) in 2005. To this is added a sound track from a movie trailer - available on the Internet - of New York City magazine model Tyler Reed (also cover girl for Penthouse Magazine, April, 2001); who frequently returns to post-industrial Akron, Ohio to visit family and friends. Those trailers functioned as modules from which sound files and video stills could be extracted (with specific permission).

2. Remixability - Being reduced to a sequence of zeros and ones, it was not much of a challenge to remix those elements into a new work, different form the source material. But it could not have been done, or I could not have done it from a small farm in rural Ohio, without iTunes, iMovie and QuickTime (and a few tricks learned along the way).

3. Transformation - The process of remixing has dramatically transformed the source material. The lab techs at Madison were, I imagine, surprised to find their brain scans on the Internet, linked to the music of Jeremy Hight, Cezary Ostrowski and a soft-core "art" movie. Nor had Tyler imagined that any of her movies would be transformed in such a way; although she's known for supporting the work of young and emerging artists.

4. Neogenesis - The products of transformation serve as the seed of further transformation. It is a process as biological as reproduction itself. Example: during the scans at Waisman Center, I was presented with a rapid succession of images that were either beautiful and obscene; obscene in the sense of cockroaches, human filth, piles of dead animals and brutalized rape victims (I'm still ot sure how to categorize the images of gold, bundled bills and coinage--I generally tripped the "negative" button on my hand-held response device). The neural reaction was captured immediately with the fMRI scan; and my eye movements were recorded on a small camera tracking visual movement. "Desire" serves as a model for a new set of movies based on this body of data; that is, the images eliciting the response, and the response as recorded with fMRI imaging, will be shown as a new, remixed cultural product; with a variety of sound tracks, of course.
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