In Reactio Veritas

Turning measured brainwaves, resulting from conflicts, into beautiful fractal images.

javascriptc++math

Software

Concept

Conflict and arguments have existed for even longer than humankind itself, and for many of us, the term “dispute” has a largely negative connotation. In Reactio Veritas is intended to counteract this. The installation uses electroencephalography (EEG) to generate algorithmic artworks that encourage one to see the unexpectedly beautiful and common elements behind the process of conflict resolution.

In the installation, highly sensitive electrodes measure the brain activity of two people. In Reactio Veritas places both of them in a previously determined conflict situation. In the process of conflict resolution, an algorithm then combines the data measured in the brains of the two participants and generates from this a unique, aesthetic image as a summary of their conflict resolution. The installation is intended to demonstrate that, contrary to popular opinion, arguments and conflict can have many positive aspects if one does not view the process with a preconceived negative attitude. The participants are encouraged to adopt a more optimistic approach in future processes of conflict resolution and explore the positive developments that conflicts and their resolution can produce.

Results

The fascinating aspect was that, of all the images we generated throughout the project, totalling at around 200, no two images in the production scenario were alike. Each frame had its own patterns and variations, one could almost say its own personality.

Technical Details

Images are rendered via a self-written fractal generation algorithm, with parameters weighted by the inputs received via the EEG devices. The first iteration was written with NodeJS, but with later concerns for performance we left only the user interface - which was used to start and stop the data polling and image generation - in JavaScript, while rewriting the image generator in C++. This gave us a large boost in performance, allowing us to render out the fractals at a resolution of 2000x2000 pixels using approximately 1 million samples per frame.

Achievements

We’ve accomplished quite a bit of success with this project, especially regarding the Ars Electronica Festivals.

“At first glance it seems a simple idea: adapting EEG streams of thought from imaging material so that moving waves and patterns can be displayed and viewed live. This description, however, falls far short of adequately conveying the potential and the sensorial character of In Reactio Veritas. Here, a digital process transforms something already in existence. This diagnostic procedure originally served to detect irregularities in the functional connectivity of the human brain, which is still inadequately understood. In In Reactio Veritas, this basic material is then subjected to an artistic and metaphorical transformation through the application of a refined algorithm, and one can say with certainty that in this case, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. One is almost literally immersed in a singular, symbiotic world of images made up of luminous patterns and mutating shapes; one can follow the installation-like concept almost intuitively and has the desire to devote all of one’s senses to the ever-changing structures. It is not only the adapted algorithms that reveal a new, transfigured world; rather, it is the overriding idea of the emotional mirror that captivates the viewer. It is held up to us as participants in an unforeseeable experimental setup, and this meta level seems both reflexive and futuristic. The insight into one’s own state of mind has an air of immersive quantum reality about it. It is wonderful when the visualization of a meta level of interhuman relationships allows one to become a glimmering thought wave oneself and wishes to think and interact more clearly. This is the connection between electronics, art, emotion, and visualized astonishment.” - Jurystatement Ars “In Kepler’s Gardens” (source)

Biography

We are MOLEKÜL — a young, interdisciplinary collective from Vienna. The team behind this installation includes Claudio Reiter (b. 2001), Felix Strobl (b. 1999), Barbara Gregori (b. 2000), Ian Hornik (b. 2001), and Jeremy Kescher (b. 2001). We met while working on joint projects at the Graphische and at HTL Spengergasse. Our common interest in creative solutions and our passion for teamwork ultimately resulted in a friendship. As MOLEKÜL, we are an unbeatable team of digital daredevils, avid acrobats of creativity, and organized multimedia jugglers.