Archive for October, 2011

Kurt Hentschläger: ZEE

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

Kurt Hentschläger is an artist known for immersive installations that have been likened to “entering Heaven” or “a walk-in hallucination”. Hentschläger has spent a lifetime creating artworks that push the viewer into a state of sensory overload. ZEE is no exception. As one visitor put it: “It is really hard to say something smart about something so sensual”. Variously described as “insane”, “like entering Heaven” and “another planet”, ZEE is an installation of fog, light and sound that will transform Gallery 1 at FACT into an out of body experience. An installation “like death” that has audiences struggling to believe the evidence of their senses, this manifestation of Hentschläger’s distinct and mind-altering artwork is a UK first.

Due to the sometimes disorienting nature of ZEE, suspended ropes are on hand to guide first timers through the installation. Visitors are nevertheless free to roam the exhibition space if they wish.

“…this is the world as viewed by a dying robot clone from the inside of a Turner landscape painting


Tony Oursler: Bunker and Artificial Hazard (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

Monkeys use mind control to move a virtual arm and experience touch

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

A brain implant that allows monkeys to move an avatar’s arm and feel objects in a virtual world has been demonstrated for the first time.

The animals used the device to control the arm by thought alone, and feel the texture of the objects it touched through electrical signals sent directly to their brains.

Researchers built the system as part of a major effort to help paralysed people regain the use of their arms and legs, feeling the objects they touch and the ground they walk on.

Without any sensation of touch, it would be easy for people to crush or drop objects they were trying to grasp, or misjudge the terrain underfoot and stumble, the scientists said.

Miguel Nicolelis, who led the research team at Duke University in North Carolina, said the technology was a milestone in his group’s bid to restore natural movement and fine control to paralysed people.

Nicolelis is working with colleagues at the Technical University in Munich to build a whole-body “exoskeleton” that can move people’s paralysed limbs in response to brain activity picked up by the implant.

“The patient will be able to use their brain to control their movement, but they could also get sensations back from their legs, arms and hands,” Nicolelis told the Guardian.

“We are looking to have a demonstration of this in time for the World Cup in 2014. When the Brazilian team walks on to the field, we want them accompanied by two quadriplegic teenagers who will walk on to the pitch and kick the ball using this technology.”

Nicolelis, who was born in São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, said the challenge was “like the Brazilian moonshot”.

While a prototype exoskeleton might be more conspicuous than most patients would like, it will be quiet and made of lightweight materials. “Even the first generation is not going to be like Robocop,” Nicolelis said.

Writing in the journal Nature, Nicolelis describes a series of experiments in which monkeys learned to perform tasks on a computer in exchange for a reward, in this case a sip of fruit juice.

In the first round of experiments, the monkeys used a joystick to move a virtual arm on the computer screen in front of them. The screen displayed three identical images, each a circle within a circle. As the virtual hand moved over each, the joystick vibrated to convey one of three different “textures”. Using trial and error, the monkeys worked out that they received some juice when they placed their virtual hand in the centre of a circle with a certain texture.

In the second round of experiments, the monkeys switched over to the brain implant. This time, they moved the virtual arm by thoughts, which were picked up by fine wires inserted into the motor cortex region of their brains. The electrical activity of between 50 and 200 brain cells controlled the arm’s movements.

When the monkeys moved the virtual arm onto a circle, they experienced a sensation of texture from tiny electrical pulses sent directly to thousands of neurons in part of the brain called the primary tactile cortex.

The more time the monkeys spent with the implant, the more they appeared to view the virtual arm as a natural part of their body. “They got better and better at the task over time. By measuring how long they spent on each circle, you could see they were really focused on finding the right texture,” Nicolelis said.

Nicolelis calls the device a brain-machine-brain interface, because it translates brain activity into movement while sending information on texture back into the brain.

“The remarkable success with nonhuman primates is what makes us believe that humans could accomplish the same task much more easily in the near future,” Nicolelis said. “We hope that in the next few years this technology could help to restore a more autonomous life to many patients who are currently locked in without being able to move or experience any tactile sensation of the surrounding world.”

Article found at:,Wednesday 5 October 2011 18.00 BST

Tamy Ben-Tor

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

Ben-Tor’s funny, alarming videos and live performances are populated by fictional characters that make Sisyphean attempts to communicate certain truths (about history, about politics, about art) but instead find themselves failing and flailing in a sludgy mental space of the artist’s devising – a domain of idiocy. For these characters, saying the wrong thing, the very worst thing, is perhaps the only way to right the world.

 Showing at Cubitt, Ben-Tor’s best known work, the video `Women Talk About Adolf Hitler’ (2003) features a series of women, played by the artist, who offer up absurdist diatribes about the Nazi dictator, among them a New York Jewish academic who discloses the Führer’s struggles with bad digestion, a phobia of dentists, and ugly knees – an all-too-literal take on the banality of evil, seemingly intended to prove that the devil is indeed in the most prosaic of details. Screened alongside this piece is Ben-Tor’s new video `The End of Art’ (2006), in which she casts herself as what may be a hybrid of a certain all-too-familiar artist (or, as the critic Donald Kuspit would have it, `postartist’) and the political thinker Francis Fukuyama, as though to point out that relational aesthetics and liberal triumphalism share much of the same self-satisfied cultural and political DNA. Elsewhere in the gallery, a monitor shows three portrait videos – `Alejandra’ (2005), `The Contractor’ (2005) and `The Artist in Residence’ – in which loneliness, powerlessness and self-delusion work their cruel witchcraft on a trio of lost souls.