Painting with brainwaves
Artist Yeo Shih Yun creates real-time ink paintings (video screenshot above) using a commercial brain sensor headset that tracks her brainwaves and turns them into brushstrokes. (Photo: Yeo Shih Yun)

Painting with brainwaves

The age-old art of ink painting is getting a tech upgrade. Singapore contemporary ink artist Yeo Shih Yun has found a new way to make ink paintings, not with brushes, but with brain activity sensors, and she is offering a live-streamed performance on Saturday (5 Sep), 3pm for all who are curious.

The live demonstration is part of her Mind Ink Painting Machine project, where she creates abstract ink paintings using electroencephalography (EEG) sensors that track brain activity. To make the paintings, she dons a commercially manufactured brain sensing headset that uses EEG sensors to monitor and record electrical activity in her brain. Her brainwaves are then analysed by software and the data is filtered through a graphics library to create real-time digital ink paintings.

The idea for her brainwave-directed ink paintings came about by accident. She had originally bought the brain sensing headset for meditation.

“As I did further research on the device, I came across interesting articles that featured designers and artists using the sensors in their works. I thought, why not merge neurotechnology with my love for ink and see where it leads us?” says Yeo, who is also the founder of the independent art space INSTINC in Singapore.

Using brainwaves to make her real-time ink paintings, however, proved technically challenging initially. Yet the allure of “tapping into energies of the most mysterious and powerful organ – the brain,” proved too attractive for her to give up trying.

She says: “The technology is really advanced, but I had long discussions with the programmers, and we discussed the look and feel I wanted for my ink paintings. I find it exciting as the outcome differs from my usual work. Usually, my ink works are on linen, canvas and paper, all of them are also executed using brushes and other tools. However, this technology I am using now does not involve the use of any brush and is not on 2D flat surfaces, so it brings a whole new aesthetic to my digital ink paintings.”

Inspired by the possibilities of creating new media art with technology, Yeo is already exploring another project with a collaborator – creating 3D printed robots that are able to dispense ink and paint via radio control. You read it here first.

Watch the live-stream performance of Yeo Shih Yun’s Mind Ink Painting Machine on Saturday (5 Sep), 3pm and find out more about her works on her website.

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