Neuro Theater: ITMO University Technologies Help Create “The Art of New Media”

    Neurotechnologies are usually the subject of medical or military developments. In extreme cases, the basis of a new high-tech startup. However, ITMO University believes that neurotechnology may well serve not only science, but also art. Therefore, last month at the Geek Picnic festival in St. Petersburg, the premiere of a pilot project in the genre of “neurotheater” took place. We will tell about what it is and how the NEU-theater works below. / Photo by ITMO University

    NEU Theater Project

    A neurotheater is essentially a fusion of art and technology. At Geek Picnic, this genre was introduced by dancers using neural interfaces. They read the emotions of the artists and conveyed their inner state through music, light, color, projection and rhythm.

    The dancers at the performance worked with the so-called synesthetic ball - it allowed to “display” the emotions of the performer. In addition, it could be used to change the soundtrack of a performance.

    / Photo by ITMO University

    All this hype around neural interfaces is good because people remember that they have a brain. And that its capabilities should be used and developed more actively

    - Yuri Didevich, media artist, one of the creators of NEU-theater

    In fact, the neurotheater is an example of how our brain becomes the center of a special direction in art. It turns out that our emotions can create audiovisual reality, thanks to which the artist becomes even closer to the viewer. This is not even an immersive performance when you can be a participant in a performance - this format allows you to better understand what is happening in the artist’s head - literally.

    Who created

    The creators of the NEU-theater project: Russian media artist, musician, lecturer at the Art & Science Institute of ITMO University, Yuri Didevich, ITMO University's Higher School of Lighting Design and Stage DFT dance group.

    Yuri Didevich has been dealing with the integration of computer technology and art for many years. In 2014, his performance Neurointegrum was staged on the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. The NEU-theater is another Yuri project combining art and IT.

    / Photo by ITMO University

    High SchoolITMO University's lighting design project is both an educational and an experimental-practical project combining education, science and art. The Higher School of Lighting Design conducts research on the urban environment, operates a design laboratory, the Light & Art department is engaged in the creation of lighting installations and lighting support for festivals. In addition, there you can get an education in the “Lighting Design” profile - the school has graduate and postgraduate courses, continuing education courses and a summer school.

    The organizers of the neurotheater consider this combination of science and art to be the most promising:

    It would be great if scientists, including Russian ones, ceased to regard art as something flawed. This is a very good combination - a scientist and his scientific approach and artists, people who perceive the world in a slightly different way. This can lead to very interesting results

    - Yuri Didevich

    How it works

    At first glance, it may seem that a neurotheater is just a multimedia performance with music, light, color and dancers. In fact, the artists involved in the performance really convey their state to the audience - the neural interface analyzes their brain activity and “gives out” a certain audiovisual picture.

    / Photo by ITMO University

    Brain Activity Analysis Program - development by NEU-theater authors (the project is almost entirely based on its own development by its creators). The basis of such an analysis is the study of bioelectrogenesis and the work of fixing and decoding nerve impulses that the human brain generates.

    With this approach, art, technology (software), and specific tools — the interfaces with which artists and artists work — become equally important. By the way, Yuri Didevich noted that he and his colleagues expect the appearance of more accessible devices and interfaces for fixing and recognizing emotions - designed specifically for artists.

    The principle of operation of neurotheatral instruments and the neurotheater in general is not new - the first attempts to fix a person’s state on the stage appeared at the beginning of the 20th century (even galvanometers were used for this). Subsequently, interest in this genre then faded away, but returned again - not least due to news about the achievements of scientists. We can say that now the neurotheater is experiencing its rebirth - and gives artists completely new technological opportunities.

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