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Finding prana: Sonic experiments in search of atemporal being

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An entire life is encompassed between a first inhale and a final exhale: breath could be said to be our physical counter of time. In Yogic philosophy, prana is a concept meaning both breath and life and pranayama is the psycho-physical practice of regulating breath. It is here, in these liminal, atemporal moments of regulation that yogic practice considers key to controlling and mastering the mind. This article outlines an interdisciplinary research collaboration between an artist/pranayama practitioner and the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Center at Northumbria University. This bio-art project employs the use of functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to take real-time brain-state data during a live pranayama performance. fNIRS records the relative concentration change in oxygenated and deoxygenated haemoglobin levels in each hemisphere of the brain. This is sonified in real-time. fNIRS is now a re-appropriated control system for sound controlled by the artist’s moving breath (present and temporal) and the artist’s suspended breath (absent and atemporal). This correlative sonic biofeedback installation offers auditions that explore the possibility of perhaps another perceptual modality and another kind of being in the realm of the atemporal.
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Keywords: atemporal; cessation; fNIRS; prana; pranayama; sonification

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Northumbria University

Publication date: 01 June 2016

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  • Ubiquity is an international peer reviewed journal for creative and transdisciplinary practitioners interested in technologies, practices and behaviours that have the potential to radically transform human perspectives on the world. "Ubiquity", the ability to be everywhere at the same time, a potential historically attributed to the occult is now a common feature of the average mobile phone. The title refers explicitly to the advent of ubiquitous computing that has been hastened through the consumption of networked digital devices. The journal anticipates the consequences for design and research in a culture where everyone and everything is connected, and will offer a context for visual artists, designers, scientists and writers to consider how Ubiquity is transforming our relationship with the world.
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