Neuromatic Game Art: Critical Game with Neuro Interfaces/* AR 581

Project lead: Margarete Jahrmann
Research Partners: Mark Coeckelbergh (Technophilosophy)/ Stefan Glasauer (Neuroscience)/ Ruth Schnell (Media Art).

Research fellows: Thomas Wagensommerer, Charlotta Ruth, Georg Luif, Zarko Aleksic, Anna Dobrosovestnova. Supported by the Austrian Research Fund FWF/PEEK, national and international research partners, Philosophy of Media and Technology University of Vienna, Game Design Zurich University of the Arts and Computational Neuroscience Brandenburg Technical University.


An urgently needed vigilant critique of the technologies of quantifying the self drives a Ludic-explorative research approach, combining real neuroscientific experiments with professional electroencephalography (EEG) and functional consumer versions of neurointerfaces for everyday use. An integral part of such an approach is a technical-philosophical consideration of biometric aspects, artificial intelligence and neuro-interfaces used in performative installations. A ludic design enables the creation of experiences consisting of elements from behavioral and cognitive science.

The research goal is to develop a new form of experimental game art in a scientific research context with game design elements and references to game cultures. From the reprogramming and conceptual change of neuro-interfaces we hybridize a new genre, Neuromatic Game Art as an epistemic method of artistic research.

The artistic research question concerns the generation of new insights into the conceptual conditions of biometric measurement of cognitive functions, their social and societal implications, and the discursive coupling of ethical and political questions concerning the measurement of the self – especially under the auspices of playing with media systems in times of social distance, controlled social behavior and voluntary self-monitoring. How is the potential possibility of measuring the innermost self, the artistic gaze and the technophilosophical thoughts on it evaluated? What social expectations and fears are linked to biometric procedures? Ultimately, we want to transform the instruments of brain measurement into artistic means of expression and take up the increasingly existing demands for self-optimization and social scoring as a global challenge in the political and social field.

Screenshot Film Neuromatic Game Art, Jahrmann/Glasauer/Wagensommerer, 18min.
Research State Ausstellung. Online/ die Angewandte Festival.
Showcase Artistic Research_DieAngewandte: Forum Alpbach 2020.

Method: Ludic Experiments

Brain-computer interfaces are increasingly available as consumer versions that use a small number of electrodes. Currently, the main use of such devices is to support meditation practices through biofeedback by means of frequency analysis of the measured EEG (and possibly other data analysis such as blink detection). The consumer brain-computer interface (BCI) promises to uncover hidden states of mind and to decipher and visualize what is considered inaccessible for conscious reflection. As such, consumer BCIs support the increasing trend towards technology and computer-based self-optimization, which is evident in the abundance of healthcare devices and applications.
BCI in scientific contexts is based on the accurate and reliable extraction of EEG signals with the aim of using them as active commands, such as movement to the left or right, or as a passive readout of the intentions, opinions or emotions of the test subject.

In contrast, our artistic research approach focuses more on the subjective experience of using the device and its critical reflection than on accurate measurements and signal decoding: for example, measurement artifacts such as noise, muscle activity or even electrode movements are not only perceived as disturbing, but become possibilities for alternative use and signal transmission via additional channels. As a neuromatic device, the BCI becomes a tool of self-expression and reflection.

Both content-related narratives about biometric interfaces are considered in the research project in their social significance. For this purpose, we have designed and publicly displayed the following experimental set-ups in the exhibition context since the project launch in May 2020.

Abstract in English

Wider arts-based research context / theoretical framework

Game Art currently undergoes a rush of presence and importance in the context of artistic research, as it informs methods of insight and experiments. This happens at the same moment as new mobile interfaces linking body, brain, and electronic networks become available in a subtly gamified world.
Ludic Theory, the concept of Flow, and the transformative potential of play will serve as theoretical frameworks for a series of publicly performed artistic experiments evolving around neurointerfaces.

Hypotheses / research questions / objectives

According to our hypothesis the everyday availability of neurointerfaces will create new dimensions of social and ethical questions reaching from of privacy and surveillance to self-optimization, but will also carry the potential for new forms of creativity and interaction. As arts-based research question we take up the challenge to critically evaluate neurointerfaces as technological devices of potential everyday use. Our research objective is the creation of a new form of experimental game art – the neuromatic one – to contribute new knowledge, awareness, and resilience, and to elucidate ethical questions, possibilities and limitations of technologies that intrude the individual brain and to ultimately change self-optimization into self-expression.

Approach / methods

In a series of staged and performed artworks informed by Game art, concepts of Flow and play, we will create a hybrid interplay and inquiry of questions around personal data and brain measurement informed by the neuroscientific research and techno-philosophical discourse that accompanies the project. By artistic re-engineering neurointerfaces will be transformed from intrusive measurement devices into participative and creative tools.

Level of originality / innovation

The present project constitutes a unique, original, and urgently needed critical but playful artistic examination of an emerging technology. The prototypes and artefacts of our research, a new innovative form of modified playful neuromatic devices, will be the seed for further artistic and philosophical use.

Primary staff involved in the project

The highly transdisciplinary project is carried out by five experienced researchers from complementary fields. The leading roles are held by artistic researchers. Margarete Jahrmann is an experienced artist, professor in the artistic research PhD program at Angewandte Vienna and in Game Arts at the Zurich University of the Arts. Ruth Schnell is a leading media artist and holds the chair for Digital Arts, Angewandte Vienna. The techno-philosophical research line is led by Mark Coeckelbergh (University of Vienna). Stefan Glasauer (Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg) guides the neuroscientific research. The group will be complemented by several young emerging artists and researchers.