New York Artist Bends Brainwaves Into 3-D Art

Ion Popian "reads" minds to create his artwork.

ByABC News
June 12, 2014, 2:00 AM

June 12, 2014— -- Ion Popian doesn’t create art with a paint brush, pencil or mound of clay, starting instead with brainwaves.

Popian pioneered brainwave art for his series “Mental Fabrications.” Each piece is created by reading participants’ brainwaves through a biosensor and translating them into 3-D models.

The finished white models look like landscapes with skeletal versions of hills and valleys. The models dot Popian's studio in Queens, New York, and as he works, the buzz of a 3-D printer slowly putting together the components to make another model drones in the background.

To create the series, Popian worked with a filmmaker and programmer to fine tune the process. The participants watch an abstract film to get their brainwaves at peak motion. The programmer than takes the data from the biosensor and spins it through an algorithm so that the data can be printed out on a 3-D printer, turning biological information into artwork.

“[The] emotions, we can feel as human we can map these out,” Popian said. “Every single one of these maps is like a fingerprint of the individual.”

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The "Mental Fabrications" series is as much about the experience as the end result.

Popian invited filmmaker Noah Shulman to collaborate on the creation of the abstract video for the experience. The film was created by utilizing magnified images and abstract music to put the viewer at ease and their brainwaves in motion.

As participants have their brainwaves read, anyone else in the studio can see their projected thought pattern on a wall. The undulating digitized plane rises and falls in real time depending on each participant’s relaxation or concentration. The more relaxed, the more peaks, while more concentration results in more valleys.

“From watching the film to printing the art I feel like it’s…creativity in its purest form you know it’s straight from the brain,” Shulman told ABC News.

When ABC News visited the studio a test run showed the brainwave “hills” appeared to rise and fall in time with the music from Shulman’s video.

It was Popian’s day job as an architect that inspired him to start the project, as he wanted to find new architectural structures based on people's unfiltered brainwave data.

“The process of architecture is what I used to derive this whole concept. It’s trying to bring a scientific…process to an art project,” he said.

Popian's skills as an architect will likely come in handy in the next phase of the project.

He’s planning to use the same technology to turn the brainwave data into giant 3-D structures large enough to stand under for a project this summer.