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Title: Altered states
Author: Royaards, Rense Merijn
ISNI:       0000 0004 9359 9488
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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In the 19th century, the physicist-philosopher Gustav Fechner proposed a framework to measure the correlation between the strength of stimuli and conscious experience, which he called psychophysics. Following in Fechner’s footsteps, philosopher William James developed the idea that lowering the psychophysical threshold could expand consciousness to thus far unexplored regions of the mind. In the 1910s and 20s, a historically ignored group of Russian post-revolutionary artists, inventors, film makers and sound engineers experimented with transformative experiences through over-exposure to light, sound and movement, with the aim of lowering mankind’s threshold of consciousness. 60 years later, rave culture began to construct collective transformative experiences through overexposure to light, sound and movement. Using an innovative research methodology that combines historical analysis, fictionalized accounts and experiment/event reconstruction, this thesis charts interconnections between Fechner, James, the Russian avant-garde and rave culture, based on a study of their common use of waveform transmissions as a technique to alter states of consciousness. This underpins a thus far unexplored genealogy that questions the accepted discourse and legacy of its protagonists and presents a re-evaluation of the possibility of expanding consciousness by lowering the psychophysical threshold. To test and develop the threshold-lowering capabilities of interwoven transmissions of sound, light and movement, I have created a series of experimental and inter-active multi-media installations as part of the PhD research. The findings to date have shown Fechner’s and James’ hypotheses to be both relevant to, and discoverable in, the Russian avant-garde and electronic dance culture. The established genealogy and the parallel design-based exploration and development of techniques to alter the experience of reality through a pro-active use of sound, light and movement aspires to provide novel creative directions for practices in the fields of music, art and architecture.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available