The Hottest New Nightclub, an Art Installation?
By Camille Cannon
The freshest entrant into the Las Vegas party scene isn’t a megaclub, ultra lounge or booze-fueled brunch. It’s artist Lia Chavez’s The Octave of Light: A Meditation Nightclub at the Cosmopolitan’s P3 Studio. What’s a meditation nightclub, you ask? To borrow from Saturday Night Live’s nightlife savant Stefon, “It’s that thing” when an artist combines principles of neurobiology, technology and sound therapy to illustrate consciousness as an art form. New York-based Chavez says the installation is “a wink and nod to the culture of Las Vegas.”
Through February 8, visitors create their own sets of pulsing beats and hypnotizing lights by monitoring and observing their brainwave patterns. There is no bottle service or DJ booth, but like most nightclubs, Chavez admits that the installation “can be a little disorienting at first.” Here’s how it breaks down:
Everyone is a VIP. Don’t let the studio’s dark windows discourage you from entering. As you approach, you’ll be welcomed be a greeter. Partiers are admitted no more than 10 at a time (so the atmosphere feels super exclusive). Inside, you can roam two connected rooms and observe other participants as you wait for you turn “to DJ.”
It’s easy to meet the dress code. You can leave the high heels and short hemlines at home; all you need here is some headwear. Chavez, along with tech company RehabStudio, “hacked” a consumer-grade EEG headset so that it translates brain activity into corresponding colors and sounds via Bluetooth.
You don’t have to deal with unwanted dance partners. No one’s gonna grind up on you during guided meditation. The installation is designed to “place the individual in the spotlight, literally and figuratively,” Chavez says. So, she will invite you to stand in the middle of a circle and focus your eyes on the light beam in front of you. After she places the EEG headset on your scalp, Chavez leads you in breathing exercises for the purpose of deepening your mental concentration.
You won’t hear the same “song” twice. Your brain wave oscillations—which are monitored by the headset—correlate to colors on the ROYGBIV spectrum, so the circle of light around you flashes and transforms as you meditate. You’ll also hear notes from the prerecorded “vocal palette,” ethereal coos and electronic hums, which are based on frequencies used in sound-therapy research. Each sound was selected “to help the viewer transcend the chaos of Las Vegas,” Chavez says.
You can make requests. Your brain is the DJ, after all. The deeper your focus, the faster your brain wave oscillations, and the greater control you have over the audio and visuals around you. Says Chavez: “Each DJ set is unique [to each participant] and can never be replicated.”
You’ll never have a drink spilled on you. That is to say, you’ll never be disrupted from your groove. The installation—light, sound and all—is designed to give you, the participant, real-time feedback about your brain’s activity. Since you’re encircled by those changing light and sound patterns, Chavez says, “you observe that feedback without leaving the experience.”