Projecting Heartbeats: Participant Experiences of a Pulse Responsive Artwork

By Jiann Hughes.

Published by The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: February 12, 2016 $US5.00

Western culture’s current increasing obsession with the external form of the human body and the instrumental applications of biosensing technologies is being challenged by some artworks. This paper explores one such work. “Membrane” is a body responsive, pulse-sensing installation that draws attention to our inner bodily processes, probing affective entanglements and the permeability of what we consider to be our personal boundaries. The artwork uses contact-free technology to covertly mine and extract the heartbeat of the human body. Real time changes in this intimate rhythm of life are made publicly perceivable; sonic representations of the changing heart rate rhythm are amplified and a live video feed of the participant’s portrait is manipulated and projected. The installation offers new ways of relating to and critically engaging with a technology that has been promoted as the solution to perceived health, safety, and security problems; it offers a playful laboratory supporting social interactions, and provoking perceptual enquiries and embodied explorations. The work offers a platform for the curious to take centre stage and locates the passer-by as witness and collaborator. A number of participants who engaged with Membrane offered their experience of encountering the artwork. This paper presents their reflections, pulling focus on the aesthetic configuration of “Membrane” and on what comes to matter in our entanglements with biosensing installations

Keywords: Interactive Art, Biosensing Art, Body Responsive Art, Heartbeat, Affect, Biofeedback, Aesthetic Experience, Aesthetics, Pragmatist Aesthetics, Interoception, Embodiment, Diffraction Methodology, Agential Realism

The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 10, pp.41-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: February 12, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 674.714KB)).

Jiann Hughes

PhD Candidate, Sense Aware Lab, University of Technology, Sydney, Belfast, UK