Many people feel that technology stands in the way of communication. With Brainwave Drawings, I created a situation using technology as a medium to enable people to express themselves more easily than without it. It's also an axiom for creating technology that encourages human interaction instead of replacing it.
While I was working with video, manipulating time technologically, creating experiences using time-delay and closed circuit video, I started thinking about how I was using my mind to think about things. I asked myself, How could I connect what's going on in my mind, through video, since I think of myself as an electronic medium, How can I marry that nature of the electronic media to best express what it is that I am doing? If I am making art, communicating ideas to the world, and the world is other people, how can I use the medium of video in time and space to express the communication that's going on in my mind with somebody else's mind and have it be evident on the monitor?
I knew then that I had to have access to EEG equipment. In 1973, I met Michael Trivich, a systems engineer, through my other engineer friends at Cornell, and we began collaborating on Interactive Brainwave Drawings. I was able to obtain an EEG and we worked with it in my studio a bit. We soon realized that we really needed try our ideas out in a professional laboratory environment. I was referred to Dr. M. Barry Sterman, who was conducting research in sleep disorders and epilepsy at the Sepulveda Veterans Neuropsychology Laboratory. Dr. Sterman was intrigued by my idea, and since it was not on his agenda to investigate this potential phenomenon, he said I could come with my video equipment, and 'subjects'. If it was not possible to derive any quantitative data from the experiment that could prove my hypotheses-he referred to it as an experiment-then any continued access to his lab would be terminated.
When we arrived with our equipment, Dr. Sterman's assistants connected a couple of our friends to their huge Grass Valley Electroencephalograph that recorded the amplitude and frequency of their brain wave activity, as an ink trace on paper. The brain wave data was also being entered in real-time into a massive PDP-11 computer , compared to the size of computers today. Mike Trivich connected one person's brain wave output into an oscilloscope; one on the Y- axis and the other's on the X-axis. A Lissajous pattern appeared representing the combined brain wave emission of both participants. I arranged for them to sit very closely together, watching their faces on a monitor in front of them, and their Brain Wave drawing was superimposed on their faces.
In order to obtain the quantitative information Dr. Sterman wanted, he performed computations to see if there was any correlation between the two participants' brain wave signals. He wanted to see whether the two people were emitting the same brainwave patterns at the same time. Could that be seen and proved? The computational results showed along with the ink trace that it was possible to track the simultaneous output of both participants' brain waves.