When you hear of an artistic installation in Rådstua promising to make you hear the sound of your brain waves, you can’t help being curious. Of course, one imagines a medico-sci-fi-like device with wires and electrodes right away, but that’s not quite the reality – not exactly. You do have a kind of hairband with receptors on your forehead, and you do have to put your hand on a square gadget, but basically you don’t feel anything. You’re not settled into a kind of dentist’s chair but into a plain one, in front of three lamps, a camera, and a screen on which is cast a close-up of your face. While the hairband measures your brain activity, the camera reacts to your facial expressions. As for the lamps, the two on each side light up in response to your eye movement (which is really funny), and the middle one gets dimmer or brighter according to your alpha or beta waves – in other words, according to your degree of relaxation or activity (mental activity, that is). As for the music, your never-ceasing cerebral waves create the undertone, while your grins or grimaces add funny discordant sounds. Clenching your teeth is particularly efficient, as it involves strong facial muscles.
At the beginning, installed and equipped, you’re “loaded” into the program by the artist. You then have to move your eyes to the right, to the left, and clench and unclench your teeth. You do all this in order for your reactions to be registered and recognized. Then the “music” begins and for a while you can experiment with how everything responds to what you do, and, more excitedly, to what you think. Finally, the artist begins “external impulses”, which include mental games such a simple arithmetic questions and word association, or drinking some coffee, closing your eyes and so on. Guess what got one of the clearest and strongest reactions? Coffee. The “activity lamp” went dazzling for a moment. When you laugh everything goes crazy as well, all lights and sounds. I don’t know how a trained spy or Buddhist monk would manage, but as an ordinary person you realize that you are, for the most, not in control of your inner reactions.