Monash University
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Project neurocam: an investigation

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posted on 2019-02-22, 03:30 authored by Hely, Robin
For my PhD I have produced a film and a ficto-critical thesis that explores the issue of audience interaction as a primary determinant in the making of an artwork. The focus of the research is "Project Neurocam", an earlier on-line interactive project made by myself. The main objective of the research is to examine the theoretical questions generated by this project—is it art? Where does authorship reside? Is it a hoax? What kinds of relationships does it construct? These questions are addressed in the research outcomes of the PhD project, which are in the form of a 75-minute narrative film and a ficto-critical thesis, written as an investigative narrative inquiry into how these considerations relate to the audience’s perception of the work. Whilst the original Project Neurocam was designed by myself, these two new projects constitute new creative outputs exploring the meaning of an interactive project from the viewpoint of the participant, and exploring this perspective through narrative-structured forms so that the works engage new audiences via story telling. The new work represents a clear shift of focus for myself into theoretical examinations of the role of the audience and a move into different narrative media. Added to these two, new original works, is an extended exegesis that casts the fictional works and their theoretical implications in conventional academic terms. The three components represent the outcomes of this PhD research. To locate my research within the field of creative practice and theory, my thesis focuses primarily on the following related areas: 1. Interactive performance artworks where direct interaction with an audience is integral to the creation of the work. 2. The role of the hoax: comparisons between Crop Circles and Neurocam. 3. Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics: is Neurocam an example of Relational Art? 4. Flash Mobs and Smart Mobs: the use of new communication technologies to create self-perpetuating social structures. 5. The social implications of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) and their similarities and differences to Project Neurocam. My thesis is written using an experimental writing style called Fictocriticism, which merges the traditional divisions between fiction, theory and criticism into a single text. This text tells a story while making an argument. In this case the story will be the story of Project Neurocam, from the point of view of an anonymous main protagonist. The narrative will explore the many complexities of the project from the point of view of the audience, and will be based on interviews, conversations, blogs, message boards, forums, chat rooms and writing from actual participants. The narrative will also incorporate all of the theoretical references and discourse, which will contextualise the project within the broader framework of contemporary fine art practice. The practical component of my studio-based PhD is a feature length film I have written, produced and directed that allows the viewer to experience what it would be like to participate directly in Project Neurocam. The film follows an investigative journalist’s journey as he attempts to infiltrate and expose what Project Neurocam is, who is behind it and what their agenda is. The film is different to the thesis in that it focuses on the experiential aspects of the project rather than the theoretical connections. As well as giving the viewer a visual representation of the project’s unique aesthetic, it also gives insight into the main protagonist’s emotional connection with the content as he becomes increasingly more implicated in a series of strange scenarios dictated by what he sees as Project Neurocam’s ‘puppet masters’.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Jan Bryant

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Art, Design and Architecture


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture

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