An interdisciplinary artist with a focus on medical science and chronic pain.

An interdisciplinary artist with a focus on medical science and chronic pain.

Seeing Is Believing 2016 
Details: custom-built anechoic chamber, VR goggles, Arduino controlled gloves, mid & subwoofer speakers
Installation view: UNSW Galleries, University of NSW Art & Design
Seeing is Believing is an experimental art, science and technology project that conveys an illusion of a neuropathic pain disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This artwork is a VR multi-sensory performance installation involving one-on-one interactions between the artist (playing the role of quasi-clinician), and a participant (as patient). The interaction lasts approximately 30 minutes. Through conversation and technology, the artist subtly steers the participant’s brain to provoke pain-like responses in the absence of actual painful stimulation. This participatory performance challenges our expectations and (mis)understanding of what pain is, demonstrating that the perception of pain does not necessarily require actual injury or tissue damage, and opens a window into the life of someone living with CRPS.

The conception and development of Seeing is Believing was a collaborative effort with clinical neuroscientists from Body In Mind (BIM) based at Sansom Institute for Health Research at the University of South Australia, and Neuroscience Research Australia, as a direct result of the artist’s research residencies through Synapse (Australian Network for Art and Technology, ANAT) and Amplify Your Arts (Accessible Arts) grants.

Seeing Is Believing Installation view 2018

Installation view: Museum Of Discovery (MOD.) South Australia

The project aims to make some of the most recent neuroscience research accessible to a wide audience of diverse educational and demographic backgrounds. It is also an artistic way of externalising an inherently internal experience. While this artwork is not designed to give pain to the participants, some individuals may experience some form/level of discomfort, depending on their subjective responses to the artwork.
Mediated Reality - The Mirage Machine
Mediated Reality - The Mirage Machine
The Mirage Machine manipulating the visual-proprioception (vision & movement/position) of their hands
The Mirage Machine manipulating the visual-proprioception (vision & movement/position) of their hands
The first stage
 A participant is lead to a Mediated Reality machine called the MIRAGE – an illusory machine whose screen distorts the participant’s view of their hands in a manner that is incongruent to what their actual hands are actually doing.

Scientists at BIM use the MIRAGE to study the ways in which the brain makes sense of the body, and to investigate how chronic pain and dysfunctional cognitive functions are inherently related. Within the artwork, these same processes are adapted into the artist’s performance in order to prime participants with the knowledge that their own perceptions, which they usually believe to be definitive, may indeed be false. Eugenie also uses this opportunity to begin influencing the participant’s thought processes to focus on the context of pain. This manipulation is achieved through modifying her performance with each participant to draw out their personal memories and emotions relating to pain.

Notable mention: The MIRAGE utilised for this artwork is one of only nine currently in existence, and was developed by Dr Roger Newport at the University of Nottingham in the UK. It was generously supplied for this project by Body In Mind (BIM) for the entire period of the touring exhibitions between 2016-18, allowing the general public to experience something they would usually not have access to outside of a lab.  
UNSW Galleries 2016. credit: Silversalt photography
UNSW Galleries 2016. credit: Silversalt photography
Inside view of custom-built anechoic chamber. Model Dr Hayley Thair. credit: Silversalt photography.
Inside view of custom-built anechoic chamber. Model Dr Hayley Thair. credit: Silversalt photography.
The second stage
The participant is invited to sit inside a purpose-built anechoic chamber that was designed to look like a domestic setting with tufted walls. Once the door is shut, the acoustics within the chamber provides the participant with an immediate change in atmosphere. Senses within the chamber are simply not the same as in the outside world – this resonates the altered sensory-cognitive responses of people living with chronic pain.

The small enclosed room also symbolises psychological isolation. No one can witness nor share what the participant is about to experience without going through it themselves.

The artist helps the participant to put on a purpose-built glove and a pair of Virtual Reality (VR) goggles, all the while ensuring the context is focused towards pain. The participant then begins to experience artistically interpreted CRPS symptoms and visual effects, felt and seen through the glove and VR. Surrounding VR scenes, with barbed wires, represent a metaphorical description of the artist’s own subjective pain. The sensation of barb wire tearing and rolling relentlessly against her organs are a recurring theme for the artist. They are the metaphorical embodiment of her own chronic pain experience.

At the same time, the physical and visual effects are compounded by subwoofer speakers hidden behind the walls. These produce a sequence of low frequency vibrations that create an unsettling and even nauseating effect on some participants.
VR scene of a participant's hand (Image credit: Dr Andrew Burrell)
VR scene of a participant's hand (Image credit: Dr Andrew Burrell)
VR scene of a participant's hand, CRPS stimulation 1 (Image credit: Dr Andrew Burrell)
VR scene of a participant's hand, CRPS stimulation 1 (Image credit: Dr Andrew Burrell)
VR scene of a participant's hand, CRPS stimulation 2 (Image credit: Dr Andrew Burrell)
VR scene of a participant's hand, CRPS stimulation 2 (Image credit: Dr Andrew Burrell)
VR scene of a participant's hand, CRPS stimulation 3 (Image credit: Dr Andrew Burrell)
VR scene of a participant's hand, CRPS stimulation 3 (Image credit: Dr Andrew Burrell)
The last stage
The artist evaluates and validates the participant’s responses, whilst sharing the concept behind the artwork and the related scientific pain research. If needed, the artist guides them through a simple grounding exercise to finish.
The creative rationale 

Many of the artist’s earlier works had their origins in the psycho-social sphere of her personal experience. More recently, as a direct result of her research residencies with scientists and clinicians, Eugenie has started to explore the broader nature of chronic pain and Seeing Is Believing is an attempt to share some of this knowledge.

CRPS is a condition that the general public are not familiar with. This neuropathic pain disease is not rare, yet it is often unacknowledged and is most certainly under-researched. It is also notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat, as there are no direct clinical tests that can provide physical evidence for its existence. Seeing Is Believing is based on the latest studies by the pain researchers and patients’ narratives collected during the residencies.

The main objective for Seeing is Believing was to transform the science behind the research into a tangible and emotional experience  of CRPS and to provide a perspective on pain that generates genuine empathy from participants. The work was designed in such a way that each participant experiences not only a glimpse into the physical sensations of CRPS, but also some of its emotional and psychological strains; including anxiety, anticipation and vulnerability. Every participant’s reaction to the artwork is different, and not every participant’s perceptions can be “tricked” through the illusions and social manipulations into feeling pain-like responses. However, nearly every participant’s experience leaves them with an altered perspective on what chronic pain is actually about.
News report by Kristy Coulcher for the touring exhibition, The Patient: The Medical Subject in Contemporary Art, 
at Manning Regional Gallery in Taree NSW 2017. Interestingly, Kristy must have been slightly nervous 
as her anxiety level had strongly influenced the heightened level of discomfort during the VR simulation.
Short documentation of the project at Museum Of Discovery (MOD.) 2018. 
Credit: Dr Dylan DeLosAngeles, Kia Buckskin-James
Credits

 Pain Science collaborators: Dr Tasha Stanton, Dr Valeria Bellan and Professor Lorimer Moseley, University of South Australia 
Mirage machine developer: Associate Professor Roger Newport, Dr Hayley Thair, University of Nottingham 
New media artist: Dr Andrew Burrell
Wearable device developers: Stuart Esdaile, Rosie Menzies, Tom Hazell, Blake Segula, Corey Stewart
Acoustic Engineer: Meisha Stevens
Architect: Matthew Bolton, Cassandra Prasad

Seeing Is Believing was originally commissioned for The Patient: The Medical Subject in Contemporary Art, curated by 
Dr Bec Dean, supported by the Australian Government through The Australia Council for the Arts and the NSW Government through Create NSW.
 
This project was also supported and funded by the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) through Synapse Residency in association with the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body;  supported by Amplify Your Art Residency by Arts NSW and Ageing, Disability and Home Care’s Amplify your art program, a devolved funding program administered by Accessible Arts on behalf of the NSW Government; AARTS Quick Response Grant Program was by devolved funding administered by Accessible Arts (AARTS) on behalf of the Lifetime Care and Support Authority (LTCSA); and Body In Mind research group (BIM) based at the Sansom Institute for Health Research at the University of South Australia.

Special thanks to Prof Lorimer Moseley and his team at Body In Mind (BIM) at the University of South Australia; A/Prof James McAuley and his team at Centre for Pain IMPACT at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA); Vicki Sowry (ANAT); A/Prof William Martens and Prof Philip Poronnik at the University of Sydney; Dr Dylan DeLosAngeles and Museum Of Discovery team (MOD.) Mike Buick, Michael Grave, Rob Yuan, Steven Cybulka and Sean Powell; Rachel Piercy, Jane Hosking and the staff at the Manning Regional Art Gallery; Dr Melentie Pandilovski and Serena Wong at The Riddoch Art Gallery. 
 

Special thanks also to Dr Duncan Sanders and Prof Michael Nicholas at Pain Management Research Institute (PMRI) at the University of Sydney for allowing the artist to attend ‘Placebo Symposium 2017: Harnessing Placebo mechanisms to improve clinical outcomes’. Attendance at this conference had a huge influence on the interaction with participants and its embedded narrative within the artwork.
Dylan DeLosAngeles, ‘Eugenie Lee’s Seeing is Believing: VR in pain management’, Artlink, Issue 38:4 December 2018, 73-77

#2 THE PAIN with Eugenie Lee and Dr Tasha Stanton on Chronic Pain, Virtual Reality, The Constellations: Podcast series, DLuxMediaArts, Moderated by Dr Bec Dean, 28 August 2018

Bec Dean, The art of Dis-ease Anxiety_Art and mental health, Artlink, Issue 37:3, September 2017

Keith Gallasch, Virtual Pain, Harsh Reality, RealTime 133, 2016


Enterprise, The Pain Illusion, University of South Australia 2015, p4-7

Hayley Thair, Seeing Is Believing: The Mirage Goes Down Under, Mirage Multisensory Illusion Lab, University of Nottingham, UK, 2016

Eugenie Lee, Synapse residency development blog, Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) 2016

Eugenie Lee, Synapse residency development blogs, Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) 2015

Public discussion, Eugenie Lee, Cat Jones, Dr Valeria Bellan: Artists and Scientist Discussion, The Art of Pain: Playing Tricks With The Mind - Illusion And Its Affect, University of South Australia, 28 July 2015

Natasha Mitchell, Art of Pain, Life Matters, ABC Radio National, 23 July, 2015

Feature Artist, Amplify Your Art Recipient Eugenie Lee, Accessible Arts, 19 November 2014

Siobhan Moylan, Pain as Muse, EastsideFM, 21 July 2014
Making of Seeing Is Believing
Testing before the installation. Andrew, Meisha, Blake and Mark
Testing before the installation. Andrew, Meisha, Blake and Mark
Testing acoustic & VR technology
Testing acoustic & VR technology
Inside the arduino for gloves
Inside the arduino for gloves
Final testing on Blake for the intensity of pain stimulation
Final testing on Blake for the intensity of pain stimulation
Andrew testing inside an anechoic chamber at Sydney uni
Andrew testing inside an anechoic chamber at Sydney uni
During my Synapse and Amplify Your Arts residencies at Body In Mind (BIM) based at Sansom Institute for Health Research at University of South Australia and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) 2014-15
Prof Mel Slater giving a 1hr presentation with Dr Mavi Sanchez on the topic of empathy and VR. This talk single-handedly influenced my artistic process and pathways towards combining VR, empathy & pain into a new artistic concept.
Prof Mel Slater giving a 1hr presentation with Dr Mavi Sanchez on the topic of empathy and VR. This talk single-handedly influenced my artistic process and pathways towards combining VR, empathy & pain into a new artistic concept.
Dr Valeria Bellan and Eva Boesch manipulating Dr Neil O'Connell with the Mirage Machine
Dr Valeria Bellan and Eva Boesch manipulating Dr Neil O'Connell with the Mirage Machine
Trying out Dr Dan Harvie's VR experimental research for whiplash pain. This was my first time ever to put on a pair of VR goggles! A life changing moment for an artist.
Trying out Dr Dan Harvie's VR experimental research for whiplash pain. This was my first time ever to put on a pair of VR goggles! A life changing moment for an artist.
VR view of Dr Dan Harvie's whiplash pain experiment
VR view of Dr Dan Harvie's whiplash pain experiment
Dr Sarah Wallwork researching on defensive personal space (peri-personal space)
Dr Sarah Wallwork researching on defensive personal space (peri-personal space)
Participating in Dr Sarah Wallwork's research on peri-personal space
Participating in Dr Sarah Wallwork's research on peri-personal space
Getting ready for Dr Sarah Wallwork's peri-personal space test
Getting ready for Dr Sarah Wallwork's peri-personal space test
Muhammad putting on gel for an EEG cap
Muhammad putting on gel for an EEG cap
Dr Tory Madden experimenting on the concept of classical conditioning & pain
Dr Tory Madden experimenting on the concept of classical conditioning & pain
Dr Valeria Bellan & Dr Sarah Wallwork researching for proprioception on Mohammad's arm while his eyes were shut
Dr Valeria Bellan & Dr Sarah Wallwork researching for proprioception on Mohammad's arm while his eyes were shut
Cassie interviewing a patient participant for the CRPS research at Neuroscience Research Australia
Cassie interviewing a patient participant for the CRPS research at Neuroscience Research Australia
My attempt to organise everything I've learned during my residency with the pain researchers using a mind map
My attempt to organise everything I've learned during my residency with the pain researchers using a mind map

Other selected works

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