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Interview: Aiste Noreikaite

Aiste Noreikaite is a creative with a background in digital media art. Interview from October 2017.

The Experience Helmet

What is Vox?

Vox is a name given to the play we were working on with Ben Mills. The real name of the play is 'The Human Voice' by Jean Cocteau. And the reason for this change being: we only were in R&D stage of this project and legal issues were not solved yet, so we couldn't use 'The Human Voice' publicly.

How did you begin working with Ben Mills? How did you get into working with theatre/performance?

Ben has found out about my work 'Experience Helmet' over the internet and suggested to meet. We discussed each others work and he offered to join him on Vox - to create a brainwave based soundtrack - because the play was so intimate and involved a single person, so it was perfect. He wanted to convey the internal state of the character in this way because she was pretending she was on OK her monologue. I do admire Ben's work.

Have you been involved in any other experimental theatre work?

I've been doing some performances with the helmet. Using brainwave sounds alone (as a meditative piece) or in combination with butoh dance, Fluxus event scores (in collaboration with Zoe Dawlen). Not sure if that falls directly into theatre.

How have you approached the project - is Vox scripted or devised? What role does EEG play in the performance?

Yes, the monologue was original/from the script. As I said, it was only R&D and nothing was finalised (or even finished unfortunately, but it might get finished later). The actress (Stella Taylor) was wearing Muse headset during the entire play and the sound levels were changing according to the work of her brainwaves. So if let's say had more alpha at some point - a certain sound's volume that was mapped into alpha would go up. Most of that week I spent sorting out technical issues (I used a different device before), but we also had another sound artist (Clive Viella, also from LCC) creating some drone sounds to use for mappings.

How are you using the data obtained from EEG sensors? Are you using synthesis to sonify the information? Max MSP? Max for Live?

I'm in a very experimental mode with this. Have tried many options: directly to synthesis, as a volume gain, as on/off for individual samples either playing together or just one at a time. Everything in Max MSP. For further work I need to investigate brainwave analysis more and look out for a more suitable software.

Have you experienced (or heard of) anything similar within the context of performance art/theatre? I similarly work with sensors and sonifying/manipulating sound with data, and what you do feels very powerful to me.

Thank You. Can't remember now...

Seems similar to the work that you have been doing with the Experience Helmet - was this the initial inspiration for the project? Or something that connected you to Vox?

Yes exactly through Experience Helmet.

How have you found working in a theatre setting? Thinking about theatre as a complex network rather than a hierarchy (text, sound, movement, light, etc.) - how do you think your sound design relates to the overall narrative? Is it driven by sound? Is any of the movement based around sound? Any lighting? + vice versa. I’m hoping to find out details about the power dynamics in the performance and its creation.

I found it very mind bending. There's so much that you can do. Comparing to a sound installation I like that in a performance you have a character and you can use sound/text/set to see through his/her eyes. Regards to my own performances with the helmet - it's very personal. Because I had depression and was very very anxious, I thought revealing my state through performance would help. And actually by the end of it I would come out very calm, as if I had meditated. I guess throughout the performance I would only sit with my thoughts and maybe try a little bit to relax but that was enough even in front of other people. Also, because I felt so horribly inside my choice of sounds was a bit haunted, again I just wanted to reflect what's inside my head. Sounds, sonification aren't locked, they vary from time to time.

What is your relationship with your tools? Considering all materials at your use for this performance; spaces, humans, equipment, existing sound, and in your case human emotion… etc.

Although the brainwave performance is mainly sound, I care about aesthetics as well, it's mainly revealed through the costume I'm wearing. I use existing environmental objects and humans to stare at while performing, so the brain soundtrack changes if I stare at a painting or trees, close my eyes, stare at visuals that are connected to the installation and change accordingly (happened once with artist named Hanzo).

How is your creative collaboration with Ben Mills (or a director in general if you have worked on other theatre as a sound designer)? How would you describe your interactions with other creatives in this project?

Our brainstorming sessions were really great. We were joking we could set up a panel discussion over the brainwave theatre subject. Most of the time Ben was working with Stella and I was sorting out the tech. Sorry, it was also a while ago and I can't recall everything now.

What was your role working with Hive Mind? I am aware that they did some studies during the run of the Encounter at the Barbican in 2016. I’m assuming that this data is used to observe and study the audience rather than use it in performance.

Yes. I was rather a research assistant during the event. We attended 3 sessions of The Encounter. I can't tell you how powerful the experience was. Hearing through the binaural head was definitely helping to draw pictures of the location much clearer and most of it - to locate objects in the space more precisely. As if you were actually there. At the moment the data is being analysed. The experiment was a hyperscanning study made to see if brain activity of two different people correlates when they are sitting in the theatre together (around 20 subjects at once) and when they watch it separately. This play was very suitable for this purpose because of it's immersiveness.

Do you have any future plans to work in theatre/performance art?

At the moment I'm preparing for a show with the helmet in Paris and possibly Amsterdam.