Live performances can be enchanting experiences for both audiences and artists. However, even if artists carefully follow a strict script, each live performance is different since the involvement of the audience changes.

Although the audience is involved, there often is a separation between the audience and the artists on stage.

In this work, we are exploring means to strengthen the connection between the audience and artists. We present a stage production aiming to integrate the audience into the process of aesthetic creation via physiological sensing. We call this approach “Boiling Mind”.

To realize “Boiling Mind”, we expressed physiological signals from the audience during the performance via changes in common staging elements, such as projections, sound, and light elements. % which are common staging elements dancers usually refer to during performances. The reactions of the audience are expressed through these staging elements and become a part of the performance. Additionally, artists on stage adapt their performance to the audience which creates a performative feedback loop. With the projections covering the whole stage performers can see the representation of the audience’s physiological data and adjust their movements to create a calmer or more intense atmosphere.

Concept Development

The stage design and described setup came out of a collaboration between the performing artists, designers and researchers in a semi-democratic process.

Both researchers and artists contributed to developing the concept during the iterative process to balance research and artistic interests. This process was mainly led by artists, especially the choreographer. Besides the predetermined story and design, the choreographer also created some improvisational sections where dancers could interact with stage elements affected by audience physiological response.

During the performance, the physiological data of the audience was captured using custom built smart wristbands. The physiological data includes heartbeats, EDA, and the LF/HF ratio related to the heart rate variability. The staging elements changed based on the audience’s physiological data.

This design aimed to deepen the connection between the audience and the dancers into a collaborative relationship by building a collective experience through the use of physiological data and reactive stage design.

Design Process

We applied a co-design process. In particular, we developed a dance performance in cooperation with a dance group. The choreographer and the dance group worked in close relations with visualization and sound designers, and researchers in wearable computing, neuroscience, and performing arts. Over the course of a year, we held regular meetings, discussions, tryouts and a test performances, demonstrating each others skills and expertise in a democratic process.