Science and Art in Dialogue

BRAINPALACE – BRAINPATTERNS: Two Research Projects Exploring Neurofeedback and Thought Patterns

BRAINPALACE enters second experimental phase:
October 2020 – January 2021

In its second experimental phase, the artistic research project BRAINPALACE tests which possibilities and potentials artistic interventions offer in combination with findings and methods of neuroscience. What new impulses can be conceived in the interplay of art and science to promote empathy, social cohesion and togetherness?

The sculptural light and sound installation with forms of interaction as well as a setup for collecting EEG real-time data can be experienced as a hybrid event - depending on the Corona actions - starting January 8 at the STATE Studio.


Art and science play together in the installations.
© Tatjana Busch
Art and science play together in the installations.
The aim is for the groups of viewers to interactively control the light installation using their brain activities.
© Tatjana Busch
The aim is for the groups of viewers to interactively control the light installation using their brain activities.

How Can the Interaction of Art and Science Promote Empathy and Social Cohesion?

The ongoing digitalization and acceleration of all areas of our lives poses great challenges to both the individual and the community. Our own voice and that of our neighbors echo in social media, political dogmatism can drive people apart, emotions control actions, and facts are no longer decisive in some debates. Empathy, as a cornerstone of functioning communities, continues to play an important role. It is artists who have mastered the game with our emotions, and scientists who have learned to analyze and, at least partially, understand our thinking and feeling, our mind and our brain. What new impulses can be conceived in the interaction of art and science to promote empathy, social cohesion and togetherness?

The research project BRAINPALACE addresses this question. It tests the possibilities and potential of artistic interventions in combination with methods of neural feedback. Neuroscientific findings are applied to create collective group experiences and to strengthen empathy through emotional synchronization.

The aim of the project is to develop a light installation for 2020 as an art object whose appearance is interactively controlled by the brain activities of a group of viewers, with suitable characteristics of received EEG signals serving as control variables.

For this purpose, existing algorithms are first adapted to the art scenario, evaluated and then combined with new procedures to be developed in order to follow the reactions of the viewers dynamically, to visualize them in a completely new way and finally to be able to "mirror them artistically".

In 2021, the follow-up project BRAINPATTERNS will investigate whether the newly developed software tools can be used to find first hints for the recognition of different levels of consciousness - by identifying emerging patterns in the visualizations.

Computer Simulations of the Fraunhofer ITWM Become Art

Among other things, a software product of the Fraunhofer ITWM comes into play here. Algorithms that support physicians in the analysis of the brain health status of premature babies are "transferred" to the art scenario in a modified form.

"There are patterns - we just have to find them," explains Hans Trinkaus from the Systems Analysis, Prognosis and Control Department.

"Our multifunctional monitoring system supports physicians in their assessments of the maturation processes of the brains of premature infants. This is done by the synergistic evaluation of several signal sources (EEG, aEEG, DCEEG) using machine learning methods. Each premature infant corresponds to a point, embedded in a three-dimensional Euclidean space. The EEGs of several preterm infants correspond to point clouds, whose cluster centers in turn correlate with pathologies. The playful transfer of such algorithms to the observation of individual perceptual effects of art installations could provide clues to the discovery of the emergence of different levels of consciousness".

Fraunhofer Network Science, Art and Design

How can science be inspired by art - and vice versa? What do researchers and artists have in common? How can they engage in a productive dialogue and inspire each other? The Fraunhofer network "Science, Art and Design", which was founded in 2018, addresses these questions. It aims to promote the interdisciplinary discourse between applied research and the arts in order to identify and meet complex social challenges.

The projects BRAINPALACE - BRAINPATTERNS are based on a collaboration between the Munich-based installation artist Tatjana Busch, the Fraunhofer IAO and the Fraunhofer ITWM as well as the Berlin gallery STATE Studio as part of the exhibition series "Science and Art in Dialogue" of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. They are funded by the framework project "Science, Art and Design".