Romanian-born artist and architect Ion Popian wants to look inside your mind – and then hand you a model of what he sees via 3D printing.
Popian's Mental Fabrications project uses a NeuroSky electroencephalogram (EEG) sensor to collect data for brain maps which the artist translates into beautiful, sculptural three-dimensional objects.
Popian, working alongside programmer Thomas Martinez, edit the raw data using a 3D modeling program to create startling landscapes with 3D printing. The models are, for lack of a better phrase, a piece of your mind.
"We can't map specific emotions; anger or sadness or happiness," Popian said. "Instead, we're mapping intensities."
Popian leads participants through a two-part process. Visitors are outfitted with a lightweight EEG monitor before they're shown a film Popian made with his collaborator, filmmaker Noah Shulman. As the subjects watch the film, the EEG monitors mental and muscular movement activity, and those data points are used to create a three dimensional map.
Popian sees the process through the eyes of the architect as well as the artist.
"In the design stage, a building feels very lively and has a life of its own," Popian said. "The moment it begins to exists in the world as a built structure, it begins to ossify and die. I want to develop a design process that helps the building keep pace and share a symbiotic relationship with the energy of its users."
While that might seem a stretch, the results are indeed captivating. One piece in the exhibit looks a bit like a curved vase. There's also a version of the famous Joy Division album cover from Unknown Pleasures. The images generated by the process are certainly novel.
"It creates these actual topographies, these actual heights based on the values that the EEG picks up," Popian said.
Popian is showing the output at the HarvestWorks Gallery in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, and the film he and Schulman created is on display as well.
"The exhibit becomes a symbiotic relationship between the person who comes to the exhibit who creates the artwork," he said. "And me, creating the system by which they can do that."