Doctoral Exegesis

Development and Evaluation of Participant-Centred Biofeedback Artworks

George Khut, 2006

Submitted to the School of Communication Arts, Western Sydney University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Doctorate of Creative Arts.

This exegesis details the development of four interactive artworks developed between 2003-2006 that enable audiences to observe and reflect on aspects of their own psychophysiology, using the technologies of biofeedback interaction as a way of situating the participant’s subjectivity and bodily experiences within each other as reciprocal phenomena.

The central theme addressed through these works concerns the representation and experience of subjectivity as a physiologically embodied phenomenon.

Although contemporary theories of psychophysiology and phenomenology have overturned the idea of mind-body separation, many forms of cultural practice continue to represent subjectivity as a fundamentally disembodied phenomenon. In addition, bodily experience in contemporary culture is framed almost entirely in terms of narrowly defined and commodity driven notions of sexuality and desirability, or even pathology. Such representations and experiences perpetuate feelings of anxiety, mistrust and hostility towards bodilly experiences, in ways that inhibit our ability to fully engage with the world as fully humans.

This problematic use and representation of the body in contemporary culture has attracted the attention of many artists and theorists over the past fifty years, generating a diverse body of works celebrating and sometimes questioning the embodied subject as a medium for enquiry and aesthetic enrichment.

The four artworks documented in this exegesis extend this process of reexamination through the use of interactive bio-sensing technologies and audience participation. Interactive practices reframe subjectivity as a fundamentally active process, shifting our sense of involvement in the issues at hand from one of detached onlookers to active participants.

Each of the works creates a space where participants and observers alike can become present to aspects of body-mind process. Audience responses to these works have been studied as a way of evaluating the extent to which these interests have been realised through interaction and this exegesis contributes to an emerging but growing body of research into the use of audience experience as a tool for designing and evaluating interactive artworks.