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UNSW academic Dr George Khut has been hand-picked by renowned performance artist Marina Abramović to participate in the 30th Kaldor Public Art Project.

Abramović, who is based in New York, handpicked Khut and 11 other Australian artists from 65 performance candidates to take part in Marina Abramović: In Residence. The Sydney event starts later this month. 

Well-known for pioneering the use of performance as a visual art form, Abramović is famous for exposing herself to pain, exhaustion and danger during performances to test her physical and mental limits.

She will personally mentor the selected participants, including UNSW Art & Design Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate Frances Barret, who all experiment with long-durational performance, intensive physical practice, improvisation or public participation.

Khut, who explores the use of participation and biofeedback training technologies in art and design practice, said he was delighted, but also surprised, that he was selected.

“I honestly thought my work might have been too technologically mediated,” said the UNSW Art & Design lecturer. “What attracts me to Marina Abramović’s art is her work with presence – how she stages her work, and how she focuses the audience’s attention.”


Marina Abramovic: In Residence, 24 June - 05 July, 2015, Kaldor Public Art Projects

Khut’s previous work includes developing the BrightHearts relaxation app. The app, developed in collaboration with Dr Angie Morrow at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead Kids Rehab, helps children develop relaxation and anxiety management skills before and during medical procedures by rewarding decreases in heart rate with soothing animations and sounds.

In a departure from BrightHearts, Khut will use his residency with Abramović to explore facilitation strategies for hosting brain-wave controlled interactive artworks.

“Participants will wear sensors that measure alpha brainwaves,” said the lecturer. “As they become calmer and quieter – the more open and present they become, they begin to move through different layers of sound and deep sub-bass vibration patterns.”

Khut’s work during this residency is an extension of AlphaLab – an Australia Council funded collaboration with sound designer James P. Brown that combines neuro feed-back with participatory art and electronic music. Khut has been invited to present AlphaLab at the University of Free State, in South Africa next year.

AlphaLab uses soundscapes to act as signposts – indicating changes in Alpha brainwave activity associated with some forms of closed-eye, open-focus meditation – to guide participants to a place of intense but wakeful stillness,” said Khut who is a firm believer in the value of contemplative practices.

“We spend a large part of our lives with our attention divided across many different agendas, planning and anticipating future events, and being distracted by electronic communications.

“I’m interested in exploring how we can use our bodies to shift our focus to a closer engagement with the present through these very body-focused technology-based interactions,” Khut said.

The artists will live in a residency designed by Harry Seidler & Associates Architects at Pier 2/3 for 12 days from 24 June – 5 July, 2015. The residency space will be open to the public between 12 noon and 7pm each day.

UNSW Art & Design is a Public Program Collaborator with Kaldor Public Art Projects.