Beats & Lyrics is an interactive lotus that allows passersby to connect to an unknown individual (“the other”) by synchronizing their heartbeats. Using this shared heartbeat pattern as a bridge between two worlds, the passerby is connected to the voice and personal story of this remote individual.
Connection is at the core of human experience. When we aren't able to connect with one another, biases rule, “us” vs. “them” states prevail, fear and false judgements perpetuate about particular groups, and hate and violence reign. The 2016 election brought many of these truths to the forefront. Beats & Lyrics is meant to serve as a vehicle for connection and understanding.
Beats & Lyrics uses technology to form visual representations of our inner state - our heartbeats - and storytelling to create experiences of magical synchronicity that make us more aware as individuals and more connected as a community. When we visualize our heartbeats, we temporarily break the barriers of biology and share something previously hidden about ourselves. By reducing ourselves to our most basic and primal rhythms, we enter as equals on a platform on which to merge and transcend our individual boundaries. By connecting our hearts, we soften the edges of individual difference and create shared experiences.
In its first iteration, Beats & Lyrics will include three fabricated lotuses installed in three public spaces across the city of Cambridge. Embedded with LED lights, each lotus is activated when individual participants physically interact with the lotus. Each lotus is equipped with a pulse sensor that, when pressed by the participant, translates their heartbeat into flashing LED lights within the lotus. After a brief period (20 seconds), the lotus’s internal computer processes the heartbeat rhythm of the participant and then maps this particular heartbeat pattern to a similar heartbeat of another person located in the city. Within a few seconds, “the other” person’s unique voice and personal story emanates from within the lotus.
Beats & Lyrics will be active for a period of one week in these three locations. Depending on the site constraints and specific locations (public square, public park, museum lobby, courtyard, etc), people would be able to interact with the lotuses anywhere from morning to evening, but the lotuses would mainly be active during the evenings hours (given the lighting needs).
The interactive lotus will range in height from 3 feet to 10 feet high, and be made primarily of wood, aluminum, and Rowlux. LED lights are embedded inside the lotus and pulse based on the heartbeat pattern of the participant. A Hausa Hand made of plywood located at the base of lotus will have the a pulse sensor to capture the heartbeat of the participant. Most of the electronics (board, shields, wires, battery) will be embedded inside the lotus and the speaker will be camouflaged into the stem of the lotus.
Beats & Lyrics allows people to connect with one another through the simplicity of their heartbeats and stories. In its first iteration, Beats & Lyrics includes a single lotus installed in a public space in Cambridge, MA. The lotus, a 3’-10’ tall fabricated organic piece, comes to life when a passerby physically touches the lotus. Each lotus is equipped with a pulse sensor that, when pressed by the participant, translates their heartbeat into pulsing LED lights. Upon activation, the lotus begins to read the participant’s unique heartbeat rhythm, mapping it to another person’s heartbeat and connecting the participant to “The Other,” an unknown individual residing in the city. Emanating from the lotus, a voice gently begins, “I came to Roxbury when I was 5 years old. My parents were escaping the civil unrest...” The woman’s voice ebbs and flows, its rhythm overlaid onto the pulses of the participant’s heartbeat. Letting go of the lotus, the participant slowly moving away from the lotus, the voice trails off and the pulsing lights change to a steady dim.
Designed as an overgrown lotus, Beats & Lyrics invites the audience to engage with the piece. A Hamsa Hand located on the lotus, a symbol of the Hand of God and a also the sign of protection, provides the audience a cue to place their hand atop the Hand. By physically touching the lotus and activating the pulsing lights and lyrics, an intimate connection is created between the participant, the lotus, the audience, and the remote participant. For a brief moment, each element is in a state of synchronicity. The participant (human), the lotus (nature), the audience (observing the participant through their heartbeat), and The Other (the remote individual on the other side) are all intertwined. The onlookers in the audience transcend beyond the state of observers to become active participants. Watching the heartbeat of another, the audience’s biorhythms begin to synchronize, naturally. Transported through time and space, the lyrical waves of The Other layer atop the rhythm of the heart, creating an interdependent soundscape of life.
The stories transcribed in Beats & Lyrics capture the diversity and complexity of experiences within a single city. Curated around specific themes such as Belonging & Separation, Food Rituals, Migration, Fear, Role Models, Love, Dreams & Desires, the stories are unveiled people over the course of a day as people interact with the piece. Each day, a new theme is introduced and there are new stories to experience. The interactive aspect and changing themes invite users to return to the installation over its duration.
Beats & Lyrics will be active for a week. Depending on site constraints, people would interact with the lotus anytime from morning to evening. However, given the lighting needs, the lotus would be primarily active during the evenings hours.