Final Cogito Event in the Netherlands

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On November 5 the Cogito project will present the final event in Dwingelo in the Netherlands. Cogito is an interdisciplinary hybrid narrative sending thoughts into outer space as radio waves. The project is staged at the Dwingeloo radio telescope in The Netherlands. One visitor at the time enters the cabin of the radio telescope and sends her or his brain activity into the cosmos while viewing an immersive video of the Earth seen from space. The project uses the EEGsynth technology and Robert and Stephen from 1+1=3 participates.


Here are Stephen Whitmarsh’s reflections on the event:

Walking to the cabin of the radio telescope, under an especially bring star-filled sky, Michael and Jan point out to me their favorite constellations. Its the night before the big event, cold and bright. We would need a beach-chair for serious star gazing though, as our necks have started hurting from looking up all the time. On summer nights they put them out on the flat plains of the national Dwingelderveld park, surrounding the 25-meter dish of the Dwingeloo Radio Telescope. I wonder about mosquitoes though, as I still itch from the night before, as a couple of them were smart enough to stay inside for the winter and feast on fresh supplies of bike-tourist blood.

Together with Daniela, Robert, Guillaume, Marina, Sandro and Giuseppe, we arrived in Drente, NL, two days before the big event to set everything up, do the final debugging (which lasted until the morning of the performance thanks to the unstable Oculus VR software), and of course some rehearsals. A lot of people and equipment were involved, space was very limited in the cabin, and almost everyone who was invited also RSVP’d, and so we had to deal with space in very practical ways. I think we ended with a very charming and truly unique set. I’ve written more about COGITO in space earlier, e.g. here, here, here, here and here, but in a way those event were all exercises and rehearsals for this one, in which everything, and everyone, came together.

I will leave the final documentation to the professionals who are working on it now, but I just want to share some photo’s from behind the scenes. So although we haven’t heard the last of COGITO in space, I have just moved my /COGITO folder from /EEGsynth/current_projects to /EEGsynth/finished_projects. Its important to have this moment where we can pat ourselves on our backs, and realize that we did it! In the end, it was quite a smooth operation, especially given the mix of people, places, thoughts, technology and art. For the public it happened within two hours of allotted time (we did it twice) within a program that was much more than that, and included the following  people and events which all took place in and around the ASTRON building (I really recommend following up on those links, as they all do fascinating work):

I really like this animation you see on the left, created from a recording of the projection that we showed during the transmission. Guillaume, also a VJ in one of his parallel lives, was able to project a mix of the live EEG signals (the first two channels displayed by the EEGsynth) with the night sky from Stellarium showing the original target of the transmission (Antares, after which the rotation of the earth strafed the emission across the sky), and the spectrum of the radio transmission itself as recorded with a little USB-antenna. You can see the voice of the call-sign in the jagged band (you can see the vowels), while the EEG transmission shows up as a dense continuous band.