project image
Sami Ismat

first performed on February 12, 2020
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
performed once in 2020


Chicago, IL


I sat still for four hours, thirteen minutes, and twenty-four seconds with an electroencephalogram attached to my head. In the first twenty-two minutes and thirteen seconds, I presented a disembodied essay, the audio of which was played while I sat sedentary, facing the camera, not speaking.

I was curious about the connections which could transcend the limitations of the computer screen in a time which necessitated so many digital interactions. I wanted to create distinct points mapping the path around destinations which language and rationality could not reach. The first essay was presented as a collective daydream. I talked about perception, extra-sensory connections, and quantum physics.

At the conclusion of my essay, I continued to sit still. My brain waves began producing ambient sound through a MaxMSP patch designed by my friend and tech operator Nathan Wheeler. At this point, the MaxMSP appeared visibly on the screen. I wanted to give non-language an opportunity to speak. This section lasted for three hours, twenty-three minutes, and fifty-eight seconds. On two occasions, I experienced a surge of internal energy, which sent my brain waves off the charts, exceeding the scanner’s recordable limits. Once the energy moved through me, my brain waves returned to a normal visual pattern. On the first occasion, my body violently convulsed involuntarily to the point that I knocked the camera which faced me. As I continued to sit facing the camera, the sun set outside the window next to me. Darkness engulfed my image.

After three hours, twenty-three minutes, and fifty-eight seconds, the camera feed changed to reveal my father and me sitting two feet from each other. Our faces were shown in profile, facing each other. The sounds from my brain waves continued. Audio of a conversation between my father and me played for twenty-six minutes and forty-three seconds. In the audio, we talked about quantum physics, perception, and the universal necessity of decoupling from our parents’ trauma. The performance ended with a dark screen after my father and I said goodnight to each other.