2013 | Private experience of altered self-perception and biophysical media (Xth Sense technology)
“Marco Donnarumma’s Nigredo really shines as an example of what can be done with the here and now.”
Derek Holzer, Artist
Developed during a residency at STEIM, Nigredo (Marco Donnarumma, 2013) is a private 8 minutes artwork to be experienced by one visitor at a time.
In a small, blacked out room a visitor sits alone facing a mirror and wired to on-body sensors. The low frequency sound pulses of heart, muscles and vein tissues produced by the visitor’s body are captured, augmented, and fed back to the subject’s sensory system as new auditive, visual, and physical stimuli. These consist of intense surround sound, pulsating lights, and mechanical vibrations that are diffused through the subject’s ears, eyes, bones, and skull. The combined skeletal resonance, sound stimuli, and light pulse produce a constant and intense stimulation field that alters the movement of the internal organs, and the behaviour of the optical nerves. The perception of one’s own physical body and visual image mutates. It is an experience taking place between viscera and perception. The biological media of one’s body sources an alternate narrative of self-perception.
Drawing from studies in analytical psychology, human sensory systems, and biotechnologies, the piece offers an intimate and uncanny experience of one’s internal self. Namely, the work investigates how perceptual deprivation can affect alterity, or otherness, that is the aware distinction between self and not-self. The work repurposes biofeedback methods and custom wearable bioacoustic technology to stimulate a continuous sensorial loop within the visitor’s own body. One self vital rhythms are digitally augmented so to form another tangible form of the self.
Nigredo won the 2nd prize at the International New Media Art TransitioMX 2013, the most important platform in Mexico for the expression and analysis of contemporary practices in artistic creation in electronic media and digital culture.
Below you can view the project teaser, live recorded during the premiere of the work at STEIM (NL) in February 2013.
Heart, blood flow, and internal organs produce a continuous and grave sound flow whose core frequencies sit between 2-40 Hz. Here, I refer to these sounds as a bioacoustic stream (BIOS). The system comprises of the Xth Sense biophysical sensors (created by the author) that capture the BIOS of a visitor’s body, and 3 vibration devices (pictured above) that makes direct contact with the visitor’s skull and bones. The devices feed back to the visitor’s body her own and the performer’s BIOS in the form of mechanical vibration patterns. The different vibration patterns are designed so to travel through the body in opposite directions and create standing waves. This phenomenon alters the natural movement of one’s internal organs and articulations. The skeletal vibration patterns are rhythmically combined with intense surround sound and pulsating light. The typical effects reported by participants so far are blurred vision, loss of equilibrium, and a sense of falling or being touched, amongst others. Because the BIOS dynamics depends on the corporeal state of the subject, the experience of Nigredo can vary from one subject to the other.
The techniques used in this work are completely safe; biofeedback and bioacoustic technologies are commonly used by medical practitioners to probe into bodily mechanisms that are otherwise imperceptible. Please note however, that the work includes high sound pressure level and strong light pulsations that may not be suitable for all kind of audiences.
The term Nigredo comes originally from alchemy, where it is referred to as putrefaction or decomposition. In order to create the philosopher’s stone, alchemists would produce a homogeneous black matter by slowly cooking all their ingredients at once. Later, in the framework of analytical psychology developed by Carl Jung, the term became a metaphor of the moment of despair and disillusionment caused by an ever deepening descent into the dark unknowns of the subconscious mind. For Jung, the Nigredo is critical to self-realization, as it represents the key to what he calls individuation or, in other words, the psychological process of integrating the conscious with the unconscious.
Support and production
The work was developed during an artistic residency at STEIM, Studio for Electro-Acoustic Music in February 2013. A special acknowledgement goes to Jonathan Reus, Marije Baalman, Nico Bes, and Esther Roschar for their invaluable support during the production and preview of the work. STEIM (the studio for electro-instrumental music) is an independent live electronic music centre unique in its dedicated to the performing arts. STEIM has stimulated the design of extremely physical interfaces and is widely considered as the pioneering place for the new live electronic concepts.
bio, biosensing technologies, body, MMG; self-perception, proprioception, sensory deprivation, otherness; internal organs, muscle tension; high sound pressure level, pulse light, induced skeletal resonance, standing wave; real time, audio and light processing, pure data.
- STEIM, premiere as a satellite program of Sonic Acts 2013, Amsterdam, NL, February 2013