Internal Worlds

Natalie McKeever

Internal Worlds, MFA Thesis Project, May 2012, Digital Arts and New Media, UC Santa Cruz.

Collaborators: Levi Goldman, installation and electronics support, mold-making expertise. Daniel Christopher, photo and video documentation.

Media: video, Arduino, custom programming, LEDs, Pulse Sensor, mixed media. 

Internal WorldsInternal Worlds is an installation of abstract video projection and interactive components that explores how our sensing bodies shape our perception, and our selves. The pulse of the participant is detected through a biosensor and externalized as lights pulsing in time with their internal rhythm inside a custom helmet. The sound of a human heartbeat is played back at the cadence of different species, as additional lights synchronize to this new, unfamiliar tempo. These competing pulses affect the participant’s state of mind and bring a hyperawareness to their body, as they viscerally experience the biorhythm of another species, and feel pulled toward these alien rhythms through the process of entrainment.

In continuation of my MFA research, I am developing a series of interactive, digital media projects that integrate biometric sensors and physical computing to viscerally impress how our biological rhythms such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and other autonomic functions influence our psychological and cognitive processes. The projects interrupt secure parts of our corporeal experience as human beings (such as the steadiness of the pulse) by introducing the biological patterns of other species. Using sensors, audio, motors, and LEDs to convey the rhythms of an array of species (a cat's purr, a whale's heartbeat), I am able to employ the body's need to create harmony within its autonomic system, and with external rhythms, and utilize entrainment to interfere with our bodily expectations. Fluctuations in the body's rhythms affect the speed of our brainwaves, actively influencing the type of thoughts that are produced.

These projects create an experimental setting where boundaries of external/internal, conscious/ autonomic, human/non-human, are blurred and reconsidered. They create spaces where the participant is able to somatically experience a sense of self inseparably influenced by and entangled with our companion species. The series of works is aesthetically driven by the words of Barbara Noske, who urges that we think of animals not as objects, but as other worlds. The interactive wearables and video installations in this series have a visual relationship with the sci-fi worlds in such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Prometheus in order to communicate the idea of "other worlds" as I relate this to stepping away from our familiar human selves, and into the structures of other animals to explore the role of embodiment in our creation of self.

Internal Worlds from Natalie McKeever on Vimeo.

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