Neuroaesthetics and Experimental Audio-Visual Performances

This paper first develops a contemporary (re)interpretation of Deleuze’s essay “Postscript on the Societies of Control” before using it as a lens through which to explore the psychosomatic affects of experimental audio-visual performances. Through a critical analysis of the 2014 performance “Zones of Influence,” I hope to establish a conversation between Deleuzian thinking, the emergent direction of a wide range of “underground” art, and recent neurophysiological research.

Although originally theorised and composed between 1984–85, due to its highly ambitious and innovative technological nature, “Zones of Influence” was not able to be completely realised until nearly thirty years later, when it premiered in Los Angeles as one of the first fully-mature examples of a new genre of experimental performance seeking to integrate audio and visual experience in completely unprecedented ways. In this instance, highly advanced software allows the three artists involved (two musicians and one visual artist) to organically grow an experience that adaptively mutates in response to their continual improvisation while intimately connecting the audience’s aural and visual perception in a way that almost never occurs during the rhythms of “normal” life.

Specifically, because they are able to facilitate very active and focused meditative experiences, experimental audio-visual performances gain significant political relevance when viewed in relation to the often reductive and limiting neurophysiological implications imposed by the repetitive, accelerating, and fragmentary semiotic structures that seem to dominate contemporary mass-media culture.

Nevertheless, the manner in which “Zones of Influence” simultaneously hyper-stimulates the mind in many ways effectively distinguishes it from other contemporaneous experimental performances that are also fully capable of inducing meditative perceptual states. This distinction is ultimately what makes it an excellent example of a nascent era of techno-psychedelic art quite literally capable of enhancing the transversal connective and creative capacities of the mind.