Artist: Alejandro Fargosonini
Project Proposal: The Year Zero of Cinema
By connecting the audience to an electroencephalogram (EEG) with a cap, electrodes, and conductive gel on the scalp, their visual cortex, motor cortex, and background neural oscillation (and outside noise*, to a lesser extent) will passively and actively control to change aspects of an interactive audio-visual cinematic experience, the Year Zero of Cinema, the content of which will be several cinematic miniseries controlled by certain aspects in real time and certain aspects passively. Visual aspects affected by electrical brain activity variables will include color correction, shot angles, lens choice, bokeh or depth of field, editing effects and length of shots (or when it cuts), film grains, filters, aspect ratios, formats, resolutions, among other cinematographic and video editing aspects. The audio, including soundtrack, diegetic and non-diegetic, foley work, dubbing, and live sound, will also change according to EEG electrical patterns both active and passively. Lastly the narratology or narrative theory aspects and narrative arcs, storylines, plot twists, reversals, climaxes, turning points, falling action, exposition, inciting actions, rising actions, resolutions, denouements, etc, will be affected by the EEG signals. By using real time intentional control by the user (visual cortex and motor cortex stimulus) and passive aspects of neural oscillation or background brainwaves, the Year Zero of Cinema will create a symbiotic relationship with the participant, brainwaves influencing audio-visual-narrative content and audio-visual-narrative content influencing brainwaves, in a feedback loop. Since the majority of brain activity and patterns detected with (EEG) are not understood as to their meaning or correlation, this project will also be a way to create an archive and catalogue rogue definitions and relate unknown patterns to aspects of the audio-visual-narrative content. In this way the archive will be an original contribution to knowledge in respect to (EEG) and cinema, both scientifically and artistically. This new cinema will be amodally perceived, with the viewer unable to ever see the entire audio-visual-narrative experience that’s possible, even with multiple viewings of the same miniseries. Each unique symbiotic version of the miniseries created can be recorded with the possibility of screening multiple unique viewings of a miniseries at a gallery and comparing and contrasting our cinematic experiences and relationships making contact with The Year Zero of Cinema.
*Noise: Attempts will be made to integrate the data from noise, artifacts and interference into the cinematic experience to smooth out the experience.
Creative: The Year Zero of Cinema will create a new platform for immersive interactive audio-visual and narrative theory creativity for myself and other filmmakers, composers, and storytellers, including film crews, musicians, writers, etc.
Cataloguing the Archive: The catalogue/archive of electrical brain activity patterns and their cinematic audio-visual correlations will help me make the entire process more robust and will create a novel and new contribution to original scientific and artistic/cinematic knowledge.
Therapeutic: This technology and the archive could possibly be used for cognitive therapy and research in regards to stroke, ALS, Spinal Cord Injuries, and amputees.
Thomas Deuel of DX Arts has stated that many of the electrical patterns seen clearly with EEG (not noise or mistakes) are simply not currently understood in as to their meaning, or if they correlate to specific activities, thoughts, etc, or not. This project will be a way to create a catalogue of such patterns, define them in some way, and at the very least, correlate them to moments in the symbiotic feedback loop of The Year Zero of Cinema’s audio-visual experience where they were detected, and link them to previous and later instances of patterns and audio-visual synthesis. We will be directly interacting with this unknown space to go beyond a cinematic art project using scientific tools and attempt to create original contributions of knowledge and research in neuroscience by locating and defining uncharted brain activities and patterns that we know little or nothing about currently.
In this way we will create a unique catalogue of previously largely undefined brainwave patterns and begin chipping away at their possible meanings, correlations, and origins. Even if we can never go beyond their original occurrence as definition, this will begin an original contribution to knowledge.
Example: Pattern 5578 (show EEG chart defining pattern) is associated with Scene 3, Soundtrack 17 at 3:30-6:57 with Foley Track 5578 in 20% of subjects who viewed this audio-visual combination.
We would show what led up to the unique pattern appearing, what happened while it was there, and what it led to afterwards. All with the map of the Year Zero of Cinema audio-visual components alongside its corresponding section.
This catalogue can then be perused and sorted with the aid of artificial intelligence algorithms. Participants will be given total anonymity but their information generated from participating will go into the catalogue could be shared with the scientific and artistic communities.
Looking to the unknown Future or L’Avenir: While the “choose your own adventure” or “interfilm” approach has been attempted several times in the history of cinema (most recently with Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) with mixed results, cinema-as-immersion has a much more storied and rich history. I expect to look to the past as much as the future, with interfilm and cinematic video game touchstones such as Smell-O-Vision, Smell-O-Rama, AromaRama, Kinoautomat by Raduz Cincera, Mr. Sardonicus by William Castle, Dragon’s Lair by Don Bluth, Sega CD’s Night Trap, I’m Your Man, Mr. Payback, Switching, Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman, Netflix’s Puss-in-Boots and Buddy Thunderstruck, Baldur’s Gate and its sequels, Until Dawn, and Late Shift, among others. The long and storied history of musical composition using EEG, beginning with Alvin Lucier and most recently with Thomas Deuel, Eduardo Miranda from my alma mater Plymouth University, and Chris Chafe and Josef Parvizi of Stanford, and other researchers and composers will also be investigated.
When participants interact the Year Zero of Cinema, they can choose to have periods with their eyes closed, and the fictional world they are participating in will change noticeably with their brain’s electrical activity, and also become more audio heavy. This incidentally serves as a way to wake potentially sleeping subjects. They can also choose to roll off the tone or volume or both when they close their eyes to aid in falling asleep.
I will create an algorithm for non-brain signal noise turning into narrative/audio/visual stimulus. For instance,
if you wiggle your tongue, roll your eyes, or your phone signal comes in, a beautiful operatic aria could hauntingly appear, or the color pink could begin to bleed from images. Misinterpretations, artifacts and noise are transformed into accents, but surprising or surreal accents, denoting that it is out of place and created by noise. While remaining in the recorded version of the participants viewing, the noise will not be integrated into the archive of brainwave patterns if it is detected properly as noise.
These 5 major categories will contain everything that will interact with the data from the EEG: neural oscillations as signals in the frequency domain (brain waves), evoked potentials, event-related potentials, and even possibly interference noise (from movements, outside vibrations and noise, and cell phone/radio waves or other types of interference and mistakes) as input.
This interaction will rely on pre-recorded segments of video with a wide range of color correction, shot and lens choices, angles, and audio soundtracks, foley work, live sound, and voice over. The resolutions and content will vary widely, as will the narrative arcs and myth-making within the work, with general mood and tone being less plastic (example: A “serious” miniseries will remain “serious” in tone regardless of input, within certain limits). Audio-visual stimulation will affect the neural oscillation and other potentials of the brain and vice versa in a strong feedback loop relationship of digital/analogue symbiosis. Signals of neural oscillation influencing the images/sounds, images/sounds influencing further signals of neural oscillations. Although my aims are artistic, eventually this could possibly be used in a therapeutic setting in the future.
Philosophy of the Image-Sound-Narrative (Statement of Purpose):
Assembling an audio-visual-narrative synthesis that exists outside of a continuum related to human sensory experiences and consciousness that aims for a secularized conversion of the spectator, that ultimate spiritual compromise; an amodal cinema. The Year Zero of Cinema will use information gleaned from live electroencephalography (EEG) readings in novel ways to create a new interactive genre of audio-visual synthesis and its cinematic movement. Within the project I will be expanding on subsets within the domain of cinema, such as narrative theory, sound design, musical composition, and many visual aspects of cinematography and editing. These will interact with EEG biofeedback; active signals such as evoked potentials, even-related potentials, and even interference noise (from movements, outside vibrations and noise, and cell phone/radio interference) as input parameters. More passive or background signals (what is colloquially referred to as “brainwaves”) such as Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta, will also be elliptically interpreted into several algorithms controlling aspects of the audio-visual-narrative. In this way, different states of wakefulness will be integrated into your experience. For instance, drinking a cup of coffee before interfacing with The Year Zero of Cinema could drastically change your experience. Many other activities and substances can affect neural oscillation and could make for an even more interactive experience (bringing “dinner and a movie” to a new plane of existence, or a group workout before watching an action film, or a long hike and picnic before watching a “mountain film”). Using Derrida’s concept of L’Avenir (the future that is not known, not predictable) we will push what the idea of cinema can be into new territory; while at the same time archiving brain wave patterns and their response to stimuli (and the stimuli’s response to them). Most patterns of brain activity are not recognized or corresponded to anything, so in this way anonymized participants will contribute to real scientific and artistic knowledge by compiling their brain activity and associated content (audio-visual-narrative scenes) into this archive.
Dependent on neural oscillation and electrical brain activity to make the next cut, for color correction/effects, and to decide where the narrative goes, which soundtrack is being generated, and even on set audio and foley elements, we will create a new type of conscious cinema. Once the viewer has a ‘secularized conversion’ and becomes accustomed to this type of entertainment, it will be a spiritual compromise to return to disconnected, unconscious cinema, which is dead the moment it’s finished being created. The Year Zero of Cinema’s miniseries can live on through multiple viewings without relying on what can be described as the poetic failure of past memories (although not revoking it); in a way that current DNR cinema cannot.
Glossary of terms:
Secularized conversion of the spectator: Converting the spectator to amodal cinema, from the current, modal form, from the dead (DNR) to the living, the time capsule to the interactive and symbiotic. If it is not alive, it has moving parts, re-playability, and something approaching a philosophical “soul”. A call and response that is far less repetitive and archaic than what we know as cinema.
Amodal Perception: of the whole of a structure when only parts of it affect the sensory receptors. Looking at a dog through a picket fence is the common example, your mind fills in the gaps of the unseen portions of the dog and you think there is a dog behind the fence from seeing only portions through the slats of the fence. This is not limited to visual stimulation, you could hear a supposed excerpt from an opera and assume there is much more to it still unheard, see a film trailer for a film that may or may not exist, or read one of Borges’ reviews of a philosophical work or novel which does not actually exist (but sort of does now implicitly).
Cinema: Arguably the most popular artform since the cave painting. The contemporary definition of cinema is the art of simulating experiences to communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty or atmosphere by the means of recorded or programmed moving images usually along with audio-sensory stimulation (even many silent films frequently had soundtracks performed live or pre-recorded audio played with them).
Amodal Cinema: A cinema where you can infer there is more beyond your immediate perception, more beyond this immediate viewing. because of the necessary symbiosis between the viewer’s neural oscillation and the work, repeated viewings should come out differently based on the current state of the viewer. This is a new type of Bazinian Cinema Machine re-imagined for the 21st century, without the semi-permanent crystallization.
Do Not Resuscitate Cinema (DNR Cinema):
DNR Cinema is the cinema that is dead on arrival and you cannot influence it’s audio-visual-narrative content without the necessary sacrilege of re-editing it. Cinema that is vaingloriously dead, and the cultic worship surrounding it has created many of the problems we have today as filmmakers, audiences, and cineaste culture. The cinema of the past, where the final edit is the last nail in the coffin. Much as Godard rebelled against what he saw as the French system’s “Cinema of Quality”, Fargosonini is rebelling against DNR Cinema.
To Be Raised $268,800
Development & Pre-production $30,000
Transportation and meals (airfares, car rental, lodging, meals, per diems) $10,000
EEG Technical Gear and Materials $7,500
Personnel (director, producer, writer, researcher) $20,000
Administration (phone, postage, copies, internet, fiscal agent fees $1,700
Transportation and meals (airfares, car rental, lodging, meals, per diems) $15,000
Personnel (director, producer, production crew) $42,000
Administration (phone, postage, copies, internet, fiscal agent fees) $2,000
Collaborators (real or imagined):
Neuroscientist and composer: Thomas Deuel
Actors: Evgeniya Radilova, Jamal Hodge, Shanti Ash, Marc English, Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafeo, James Bristow
Choreographers: Andrea Spaziani
Composers: Adam Torres, Lex Land, Claire Rousay, Paul Hunt, hweeqo
Cinematographers: Brian Patrick Coleman, David Vlasits, Michael Tosner
TIMELINE: 1 year
Edith Russ Haus Art/Media Grant $10,000
Art Inside Out Grant & Residency Program $15,000
Production equipment and facilities rental $15,000
Post-production Transportation and meals (airfares, car rental, lodging, meals, per diems) $6,000
Personnel (director, producer, editor, sound engineers, etc) $20,000
Administration (phone, postage, copies, DSL, fiscal agent fees) $4,600
Lab fees and post-production facilities (dubs, editing, subtitles, mix) $16,000
Distribution Launch Transportation and meals (airfares, car rental, lodging, meals, per diems) $8,0Personnel (director, producer, production crew, publicist) $5,000
gallery installation materials $5,000
Administration (phone, postage, copies, internet, fiscal agent fees) $1,000
Contingency ~5% of total budget $13,440
Total Expenses: $ 268,800