Thanks for inviting me to be part of this months discussion.

Since 2003, I have been looking at how we can use the ‘emotions’ of  
the body to drive moving image and experiences that both provokes,  
exposes, and empathizes with the audience. It took a few years to  
gather the research team which I felt was needed to in order to become  
further empirically informed to monitor, assess, and provoke the  
emotional body in more ‘intelligent’ and ‘meaningful’ ways.  Since  
2005 I have been resident at the Wellcome Department of Neuroimaging  
at Queensquare, UCL currently working with social neuroscientist Chris  
Frith whose work deals around the neural basis of social interaction.  
For a year I have been visiting artist at the Affective Computing  
Group at the MIT Media Lab, mostly working with Ros Picard and Rana El  
Kaliouby whose research looks at designing technologies and models to  
assess and communicate affective-cognitive states.  I am visiting  
artist at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, mostly working with  
chair of psychiatry and long term neuroscientific collaborator Hugo  
Critchley whose work sits around the brain/body mechanisms of emotions  
with a focus on the autonomic integration with emotion, as well as  
neuroimaging and psychosomatic medicine.  I also work with the Human  
Computer Interaction Center at UCL, particularly Nadia Berthouze – who  
specialises in emotion/HCI. This provides a really fertile ground to  
explore my work around the emotional/empathic body. Currently my works  
looks to the research and limitations in neuroscience and affective  
computing to drive new types of art experiences.

When I say assessing the body in ‘intelligent’ ways, I wanted to work  
with neuroscientists to assess the data emitted by the body, to  
understand how it relates to a feeling state of the participant, and  
match this information to drive more meaningful moving images (not an  
easy task - in the past i had taken a more intuitive approach). In  
some cases, this means testing the image and physiological responses  
to the images in the lab. Also, often the interaction design of these  
bio-sensing works means that the viewer had to be constrained, dressed  
in obtrusive technology to monitor the body which effects the emotions  
of the body (applying the sensors often causes the body to become more  
anxious). Most emotion recognition systems and sensors have been  
developed by academia and industry, tending to be used in labs, and  
therefore not aesthetic, bulky and not naturalistic in their  
interactivity. They are also problematic to work with in public  
exhibitions (breakdown after a few days of constant use…).  
Alternately, the consumer devices are often not robust enough to  
monitor the subtleness of the physiological responses (but over the  
last year are getting better). Body movement, the enormous variability  
of physiological data sets across multiple participants, and  
restraining the natural interaction of the audience create  
difficulties! By working with affective computing scientists, human  
computer interaction specialists and neuroscientists, the aim is to  
research and develop more naturalistic, robust and transparent  
monitoring techniques. We are looking at existing technology, adapting  
it, building a more transparent interface between participant and  
artwork. (

  Also, by ‘meaningful’  - artists often use ambiguous generative  
abstract moving images or sound to respond to the data of the body. I  
know pulsating circles or shifting colours to represent emotion may  
generate a sense of meaning due to its ambiguity, but I was more  
interested in working with scientists to produce more figurative and  
emotionally narrative based video works that could engage, reflect and  
provoke the feelings of the viewer. Most visual emotion research  
databases used in emotion neuroscientific studies, such as The  
Karolinska, The Ekman and the International Affective Picture System  
(IAPS) have been created in labs, informed mostly by scientists, not  
artists. From an artistic viewpoint, they are mostly visually  
underwhelming and often clichéd. We have built a range potent visual  
stimuli databases to provoke emotional responses which have been used  
in a range of experiments.

  With the scientists, we are hoping that creating ‘labs’ outside of  
labs, with stronger visual stimuli, in more naturalistic environments  
will create more robust and potent data to understand emotions. Most  
of our empirical understandings and mappings of emotions, come from  
with in labs, which I wonder, if what we view to be ‘neutral’, is not  
a ‘baseline’ of anxiousness? The lab is a difficult environment to  
relax in. For our team, a great work is one that becomes a range of  
experiments in the lab while also becoming an art experience. When  
working in the lab, we need to work in coding the scanners can  
understand (limitations), and work in time formats that suit the lab/ 
scanning technology. The exhibition output has its own difficulties -  
the work is often built in a progression of prototypes to fully  
understand the concept that umbrellas the complex balance between  
sensing methods, audience experience, architectural space, sound and  
image. Most curators are a little apprehensive of using exhibitions as  
more of a lab to create ‘testing opportunities’ to gather audience  
evaluation, space to test the technology, and artist reflection.

  Anyway, sorry about the length of this…will stop.

tina gonsalves