Marina Abramovic wants you to drive with your mind

Via the Compatibility Racer website

Click here to donate all your money to the cause.

Marina Abramovic, the “grandmother of performance art,” launched a Kickstarter today for the Marina Abramovic Institute.

She says the Institute will be a hub for workshops, exhibits, lectures, artistic archives… and something called the “compatibility racer.”

“COME PAT A BULL is a competitive, interactive brain-robotics installation. The installation explores synchronized brain activity between people: what does it mean scientifically to be ‘on the same wavelength’?” 

Here’s how it works: Two people sit on the bull, a little vehicle with two chairs facing each other. Portable EEG headsets track the brain activity of both riders. The bull then moves “as a direct result of increasingly shared brain activity.  Conversely, movement slows or halts as a function of participants’ lack of (brain wave) alignment. Thus, the participants’ movement is literally fueled by successful communication and collaboration.” The supplemental pictures/videos indicate that this might happen when both riders are listening to the same music, or performing the same gestures.

card-front

One of the paper’s co-authors, Lauren Silbert, is also a member of the compatibility racer team. Silbert is a PhD candidate in neuroscience at Princeton. Another neuroscientist, NYU professor Suzanne Dikker, also helped with the project.

The Compatibility Racer homepage cites a 2010 PNAS paper in their description of the exhibit. The paper, titled ‘Speaker and Listener Brain Activity Exhibits Widespread Coupling During Communication,’ suggests that communication is more successful when there is a higher rate of neuron coupling. That is, people communicate better when their brains mirror the other person’s actions.

This is honestly the first time I’ve ever heard the phrase “interactive neuroscience.” But the project is certainly intriguing.


Aviva Hope Rutkin is a science and technology reporter in the Boston area. She currently writes for the MIT Technology Review. Follow her @realavivahr.

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