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Performing Hypo-Linguistics

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Language is the original technological prosthesis mediating all transfer of human cognition. The relationships between language, communication and cognition have long been the subject of scientific, philosophic and linguistic inquiry. However, it is through contemporary advancements in neuroscience that we now have unprecedented access to the inner workings of the human brain. Particularly, consumer grade neural scanning technologies like the Muse headset allow non-scientists to view, manipulate and draw conclusions from data generated by their own neural processes. Hence, artists Minka Stoyanova and Lisa Park SoYoung have created an artistic experimental system that utilizes these technologies to address the possibility of communication beyond the confines of linguistic signification. Performing Hypo-Linguistics uses Muse brain sensors to create an abstract audio-visual communication system and feedback loop. Through the visualization and sonification of their respective brain data, these artists perform communication that is both outside of conscious control and beyond sign-based systems of linguistic representation. In this article, we discuss the philosophic and scientific groundwork that supports the creation of this system; our processes of sonification and visualization of the Muse-generated brain data (including the modes by which we actively avoided signification and expected technological aesthetics of data representation); and the outcomes of the performances or the realized interaction between the performers. As deep-learning algorithms become increasingly able to teach computers to mimic human language, it becomes ever more apparent that language is not, in fact, the purview of the human, but only one technological mode invented to facilitate the transfer of information. As with all systems of communication, noise is introduced in this process of transfer. This artistic research seeks to highlight that reality while considering the potentials for alternative forms of technologically mediated communication beyond linguistic signification and below the level of consciousness.
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Keywords: EEG; communication; data visualization; language; neuroscience; performance; posthuman

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Shanghai Institute of Visual Art and City University of Hong Kong 2: City University of Hong Kong

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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  • Technoetic Arts focuses upon the juncture between art, technology and the mind. Divisions between academic areas of study, once rigidly fixed, are gradually dissolving due to developments in science and cultural practice. This fusion has had a dramatic effect upon the scope of various disciplines. In particular, the profile of art has radically evolved in our present technological culture
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