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T: THE NEW YORK TIMES STYLE MAGAZINE

An Artist’s ‘Meditation Nightclub’ on the Las Vegas Strip

By Laura Neilson

Artists’ residencies in Las Vegas tend to involve grand theater stages and bizarre ticketed performances, but at the Cosmopolitan hotel, the New York-based multimedia artist Lia Chavez has crafted an altogether different kind of spectacle. As the first in the annual lineup for the hotel’s P3Studio artist-in-residence program, Chavez has set up a surprisingly cerebral take on the notion of nightclubbing.

“I wanted to extract the very best elements of a great nightclub — namely, those encounters with ecstatic abandon — and create an experience all about that aspect,” Chavez explains. Her show, “The Octave of Visible Light: A Meditation Nightclub,” tracks and displays the real-time relationship between visitors’ oscillating brainwaves and corresponding colors and sounds for a mesmerizing spectacle that’s entirely unique to each participant.

Working with the creative company Rehabstudio, Chavez invented a digital system to generate user’s neurobiological feedback through EEG headsets and translate those frequencies into musical sounds, laser-projected colors and radiant strobes in an otherwise dark studio nestled among a cluster of buzzy restaurants on the Cosmopolitan’s third floor. “The most pressing challenge of this work lies in how the viewer is able to receive real-time feedback on what is occurring within the brain, while remaining engaged with the experience,” she says. In other words, she adds, “How do we achieve higher levels of awareness of what we’re experiencing without compromising the experience itself?”

In this case, the physical act of dancing is subverted by the focus on achieving a mental rhythm of sorts. Visitors are invited to wear the headsets as Chavez leads a guided verbal meditation based on Zen Buddhist techniques — again, an intentional contrast to the noise and excess of Las Vegas. “It’s an opportunity to explore the currency of attention in a setting that’s a masterpiece of hyper-stimulation,” Chavez says. “Thoughts go everywhere, and the technology enables the viewer to observe the acrobatic nature of the mind. After a few moments of relaxing and focusing, the viewer learns how to use color and sonic spectra as guides to deeper states of meditative intensity.”

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