Remembrance, Customized Electroencephalography (EEG) Animation by Chanhee Choi (2020-2022)


Project description

This work is an immersive animation addressing the poetics of a mind as it is dying of dementia.  My animation will be layered overtop of a colorful visual abstraction of the viewer’s own electroencephalographic input (EEG) as monitored by a brain sensor, and projected onto a three-sided screen. The audio will be of a poem I will write on the same topic, read in Korean, subtitled in english on the screen. The goal of this project is to explore more deeply the nature of dementia, disconnected from its medicalization, perhaps even providing a lens through which the confusion and suffering of our loved ones with dementia can be experienced as something poetic, a process of degeneration as beautiful as it is painful. The memory of a person with dementia slowly disappears, but the brain is a sensor that continues to want to collect data. What are we then? 


Remembrance is very urgent and personal to me, as the women in my family tend to develop dementia before the age of 60. My mother is currently living with the disease, and I expect it will come to me as well. This project is an attempt to process my grief and fear by creating an aesthetic contemplation of dementia that incorporates the current scientific understanding of the disease. The physiological mechanisms of our brains when they are fading out, as memory is lost and disorientation subsumes us relates to the perceptual qualia of all subjective experience. As in particle physics, some things are easiest to study while they are being destroyed. 

What would it be like to die softly & slowly without hope? Your appearance will be the same as others who do not have dementia, but your insides will be lost--- it starts from your eyes- your eyes will become dull first, so that people notice something is changing. Everyone who loves you will be in pain as you lose your memory, watching you recede like a flower wilting slowly, but what is more innate to life than the experience of death? The destruction becomes incandescent.


Electroencephalography (EEG) is the measurement of the electrical activity of the brain by electrodes placed on the scalp. My artists have worked with EEG in the past, beginning with Alvin Lucier’s performance Music for Solo Performer in 1965, which used brain waves to generate sound directly. In Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat's piece E.E.G. KISS (2014-2020) the two share a kiss while surrounded by the wavy lines of their neurofeedback. The Digital Arts and Experimental Media department, at the University of Washington (DXARTS) founder Richard Karpen and chair Juan Pampin collaborated with the JACK Quartet in 2019 for the piece, ‘Human Subjects’, in which they generated and controlled sounds from their brain waves using EEG. This DXARTS concert was what triggered my desire to explore the use of EEG headsets in my own work. DXARTS has a history of merging neuroscience and art. There are seminar classes and a lab dedicated to this hybrid field.


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