My Heart Laid Bare

“My Heart Laid Bare” (2011) is a ground-breaking performance installation created by Anna Dumitriu. In the gallery space the artist sat on a stool at a small table with another empty stool on the opposite side where participants were invited to come and sit. The table was embedded with a calibrated galvanic skin response (GSR) sensor that was remotely attached to a laptop, which was driving video files that were played based on fluctuations in the artists GSR. A video was projected on to the wall behind the artist, and it was suggested, was showing her ‘inner emotional state’.

Whilst being monitored, the artist chatted with the participant and discussed topics around the ethical issues of access to biosensor data, the rhetoric around emerging ‘mind reading’ technologies (now being used by security services) and the emotional impact on users. The projected videos showed the artist in various emotional states. The suggestion was that participants conversing with her had access to her ‘inner emotional state’ through the GSR data and digital technologies so their ability to view how she really felt became part of the feedback loop of their conversations. The artist endeavoured to be cheerful and pleasant  throughout however awkward she found any particular conversation. Given that one participant threatened to kill her and others attempted to flirt this was a challenge.

The project builds on artistic research undertaken by Anna Dumitriu in collaboration with Susie Scott, Eskindir Asmare and Alex May, as part of the University of Sussex Project “Supporting Shy Users in Pervasive Computing” an EPSRC funded project bringing together Informatics, Sociology, Human-Computer Interaction and Art and was also developed into a “Biosensing and Networked Performance” workshop at ISEA 2011 in Istanbul.

The work was first performed at “Like Shadows: A Celebration of Shyness” at the Phoenix Gallery for Brighton White Night 29th October 2011.

“My Heart Laid Bare” at The Phoenix Gallery in Brighton, UK

It is described in the book “Performativity in the Gallery: Staging Interactive Encounters (Cultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship Between the Arts)” in an essay by the exhibition curator Helen Sloan.

Documentation of the work was exhibited at The Gallerie Libre Cours, in Brussels, Belgium in April 2012 as part of ICT and Art Connect. The piece investigates the ethical implications and scientific possibilities of ’emotion sensing’ through a participatory biodigital performance. 

The project was a development of “Enactive Dialectics” described in Leonardo Journal. That project was created by Anna Dumitriu, Dr Pia Tikka, and Dr John Holder as part of the European Mobile Lab for Interactive Media Artists developed in 2009.