Embodipaint: an Artwork produced from 7 days of Heart Rate data (2017)

For 7 days, the researcher and artist Albert Barqué-Duran had his heart rate constantly monitored with Fitbit Charge HR wearable technology in order to produce an artwork inspired by his own heart beat raw data. These data were influenced by the social interactions with the rest of attendees at The Social Brain: Embodiment and Culture Summer School in Aegina (Greece); 25th June – 1st July 2017. The aims of the project were to explore if creative inspiration could be originated from one’s own heart beat and to communicate artistically a bodily indicator of social encounters and interactions.


Recent approaches in psychology, neuroscience and philosophy of mind have challenged a predominantly encephalocentric view of human nature whereby cognition and behaviour can be explained by looking solely or mainly inside the workings of the brain. But theres is a novel view of the brain that has important implications about our understanding of cognition reaching beyond the brain. As a body organ itself, the brain is inter-dependent on the rest of the body and in particular its visceral organs whose autonomic functions ensure the homeostasis and survival of the organism. The brain and the visceral body are therefore engaged in a constant two-way dialogueRecent studies highlight the far-reaching influences that visceral signals from the body have on cognition across a wide range of domains, from emotional processing, to decision making and self-awareness. For example, on every single heartbeat, the heart informs the brain about its dynamic state and the arousal levels of the body, by signaling the timing and strength of each heartbeat to the brain.

57 experimentally naïve participants at Aegina Summer School received Greek Tzatziki and mosquito bites for participating in the experiment.

Materials and Procedure:
The experiment, monitored by Fitbit Charge HR wearable technology (see Figure below) lasted approximately 7 days. The heart rate of one of the participants (Albert) was constantly monitored and was used as the dependent measure. Participants were randomly told to influence Albert’s heart rate (i.e. giving hugs, scares, laughs, etc). All the data were saved and located into the cloud every 24 hours. At the end of the experiment, a
ll the data collected (time series) were translated into an artistic output using a classic technique from fine arts (i.e. oil painting). To do so, heartbeat differences were associated into specific colours using a novel paradigm called Heart-Rate-Colour Palette (see Figure below). The palette was designed such that the darkest colour would be associated with Albert’s resting heart rate and then colours would increase in warmth and brightness as Albert’s heart rate increases too (up to his maximum).

We decided to focus on the data of a single day instead of using the data from all the 7 days. For obvious reasons, we concentrated on the time series data from Thursday 29th of July, which was the day of the Party. In all the subsequent figures, the data can be read as it follows: the x-axis represents all the non-sleeping hours (from 8am to 5am of the subsequent day) and the y-axis shows the minutes inside each hour (from 0 to 60 in intervals of 5 minutes). We used this format as the easiest way to visually understand the evolution of the heart rate within a day. The first figure below shows all the intraday data for Thursday 29th July; and the second figure below shows its translation to a specific colour following the heart-rate-colour palette paradigm.


“Fish and cicadas will find our way.
Plankton will guide us.
My Heart Rate is Fluorescent Now.”

Aegina was a Greek island full of myths. Plankton was one of them. It was Fluorescent, wasn’t it? Or not. Believers are going to believe. Haters are going to hate. “My Heart Rate is Fluorescent Now” (2017) is a painting that aims to embody a shared social interaction from all participants who took part in this 7-day experiment (the vivid discussion of the (non)existence of Fluorescent Plankton) and depict it through a specific bodily indicator (heart rate). 264 pieces of Fluorescent Plankton have been carefully painted following the heart rate data and their associated specific colours shown in previous sections.

Albert Barqué-Duran 
My Heart Rate is Fluorescent Now (2017) 
Oil on canvas (60 cm × 49.5 cm) 
Private Collection (UK)



“The Social Brain: Embodiment and Culture conference is organised by Prof. Ophelia Deroy (Centre for the Study of the Senses & Institute of Philosophy, University of London) and Prof. Manos Tsakiris (Royal Holloway, University of London & The Warburg Institute) with the sponsorship of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain.


© Albert Barqué-Duran. 2018. All rights reserved.


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