The biological phenomenon of the electrodermal response (EDR) provides a fascinating medium
for artmaking, replete with its own poetics. Used famously by Carl Jung to measure upheavals of
the unconscious mind during word association exercises, and more recently by the Church of
Scientology to gauge the psychological possession by aliens of individuals through e-Meter testing
– the electrodermal response is electrical activity occurring at the skin of an individual that is
thought to reflect states of consciousness.
Despite its vague interpretations this scientific technique is still used actively in cognition and
psychiatric research worldwide – yet meanwhile finds great support as a tool of oppressive
interrogation as part of the American NSAʼs polygraph test, despite being soundly disproven by
science to furnish any definite proof of dishonesty. The contemporary mysticism surrounding the
EDR, this tension between fantasy and reality, drew me towards it as a medium. In early 2014 I
constructed my own EDR measurement sensors and began a research process exploring how
these signals can be used to create poetics.
My first experiment was titled Autonomic Resonance, a performance collaboration with pianist
Momoko Noguchi. Together we attempted to construct a “collective subconscious” by interlinking
our two EDR measurements – using the synchronicities and antipathies of these measurements in
time to drive a musical artificial intelligence, creating an aesthetic experience for the audience, but
also creating a tension between consciousness and biology. At times it seemed that our body
signals were responding to each other without any conscious intervention – does performance
create subconscious connections between individuals? Do the spaces we inhabit also carry
extrasensory signals conveying a sense of interpersonal presence?