DXARTS Receives Inaugural Bergstrom Award

Professors Edward Shanken, James Coupe, and Eberhard Fetz. Photo credit: Isaiah Brookshire
Professors Edward Shanken, James Coupe, and Eberhard Fetz. Photo credit: Isaiah Brookshire

DXARTS has been chosen as the inaugural recipient for the College of Arts & Sciences Bergstrom Award.  The award will fund the creation of a new "Art & the Brain Lab" to be housed at DXARTS and intended to foster artistic collaborations arising from investigations at the intersection of neuroscience and digital art.

The Bergstrom Award for Art and Science was established for the purpose of supporting projects or activities at the UW that enhance the student experience and bridge the intersection between art and science.

The idea for the DXARTS proposal arose from a successful Fall 2013 DXARTS interdisciplinary seminar course entitled Art and the Brain, which joined art practice (Professor James Coupe), neuroscience (Professor Eberhard Fetz), and the history and theory of art-science collaboration (Professor Edward Shanken).  For a more in-depth look at the course, see the Arts & Sciences Perspectives article "This is Your Brain on Art."

The course generated a range of proposals for art-science research projects that students and faculty wished to pursue, but that needed specialized equipment in order to develop further. Examples of possible projects included: musical performances that change according to neural data gathered from their audience, dream-machines that learn neural sleep patterns and  attempt to predict and visualize future dreams, and interactive video art installations that are responsive to the unique brain activity of each viewer.

The Art and the Brain Lab will fill a need, demonstrated in the seminar class, to conduct hands-on research at the intersection of art and neuroscience, as well as attract students with natural science backgrounds to collaborate in art-science research.  The first phase of development will allow the lab to acquire core equipment enabling faculty and students to build EEG data-driven responsive artworks and environments.  These interactive systems will consist of feedback loops between neural activity in users and variations in multimedia output. Changes in specific parameters of a user's brain activity will determine changes in the artwork and, conversely, changes in the artwork may also trigger changes in the user's brain activity.  By studying such interactive systems, the lab hopes to facilitate research with the potential for expanding artistic creation, interaction design, human-computer interface development, and neuroscientific knowledge.