Nina Sobell
1973 - 1993

In 1973, a seminal experiment prompted by Nina Sobell occurred at the Neuropsychology Laboratory of the Sepulveda Veterans’ Administration Hospital. Conclusive proof that two people could affect each other’s brainwaves supported over three decades of artwork by Sobell and her collaborators. Interactive Brain Wave Drawings 1973-1993 includes documentation of the original experiments in the Los Angeles hospital, as well as different variations throughout the United States including these venues:

1975- Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston
1979- The Computer Store
1980- Chris Matthews’ Studio
1983- Long Beach Museum of Art
1992- Bronx River Art Center

Contributions by data visualization engineers include Michael Trivich, Chris Matthews, Kong Liu, and Masahiro Kahata.

The installations were set up with two participants sitting side-by-side facing a video camera and monitor, with superimposed data visualizations of their combined brainwave emissions. Nina and exhibition assistants would provide visitors with a very humanistic experience; demystifying the technological tools required for the interpersonal interactivity of the works. They helped prepare the skin for maximum conductivity to the electroencephalograph (EEG) electrodes, explained the signal paths from the brain to the screen, and taught participants how to use one of the first videotape recorders to control the playback of their sessions.

The work utilized computers from the very beginning, even in the early Seventies and Eighties. At the Neuropsychology Laboratory, a Hewlett Packard PDP-11 was used to compare the eight channels of data coming from each of two participants, and helped to confirm their interrelations. In1979, Brainwave Drawings were made at the first home computer store in the world. An Apple Computer, special effects generators, video mixers, and digital animation were all incorporated into EEG data visualizations to layer the internal and external portraits of the participants. NASA was even intrigued by her work and lent her an oscilloscope in 1975.

Text written by Ross Bochnek.

Nina Sobell (USA) is a pioneer in analog and digital media arts. She has produced and collaborated on landmark works that have anticipated the aesthetics and funtionality of online works by herself and many others to come. Nina is interested in facilitating non-verbal, interpersonal communication and process-oriented presentations that bring the creative energies once found in artists' studios into non-traditional venues including shopfronts and sidewalks. The live aspects of performance extend to her collaborators' presence at exhibitions in galleries and museums as well. Often, Sobell would avail herself to talk directly to visitors, demystify the necessary technologies surrounding them, and teach them how to use and manipulate them themselves. She is socially
and critically responsible in that her work personifies various methods of production; addressing the mediation that is often blamed on technology to be the result of humanity's use of designed tools. Nina has been a true mulitmedia artist since 1971.

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