Nell Breyer

Friday, September 25th, 2009 at 16:32
Center for Advanced Visual Studies/MIT, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd Floor, Room N51-390, Cambridge, MA.

TheDisappearingWomansNell Breyer is a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. She was a digital ARM fellow at Dance Theater Workshop (DTW) in 2003. From 2000-2002, she conducted research on digital video technologies at The Media Laboratory for Arts & Sciences (MIT). She holds an MSc in cognitive neuroscience from Oxford University and an MS in media arts & sciences from MIT. Her work focuses on the intersection of dance, new media, and visual art.

Breyer’s piece Time Translations was commissioned and produced by the World Financial Center Arts & Events in 2005. Her recent work, i:move, was first presented at Boston CyberArts Festival and later shown at Dance Theater Workshop gallery. It was further developed and installed at MIT’s Media Lab and the MIT Museum Inventor’s Spotlight. Breyer’s work has been presented in group shows at Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, NURTUREart Gallery, Art Interactive, and Photo NY, and she has choreographed and performed in New York, Canada, the UK, Bangladesh, and Slovenia.


My work explores how we perceive motion. I am interested in the inherent contradiction between how we perceive movements — physically, in an instant — and how we conceive of them — constructing our understanding through the varied forms, modalities and abstract memories of the mind’s eye. For example, an athlete might feel and imagine movement differently from an accountant.

InsulaI am looking at different ways dance enables us to experience movement. I want to draw viewers into the work, using actions, not just images. Ideally, the roles of viewer and mover converge. What you do creates what you see. A passerby physically draws out his or her own movements by moving. My work strips movement down to the essential element of change: the difference between Time1 and Time0. To explore this concept, I wrote simple software that could process images to reveal only changes between frames, not the moving object itself. I used the software to capture and re-envision the movements of a dancer.

New York commuters became the subject of Time Translations, an installation for the World Financial Center (2005). Time Translations examined the bottleneck of human passage along the South Bridge, drawing a kinetic history of the bridge. The image patterns transformed human reactions into a two-dimensional shadow play, so pedestrians became performers.

I have continued this to create this work for theater and public spaces, developing living, unfolding and ephemeral drawings that heightens our kinesthetic sense. My work seeks to bring different modalities together in the representation of human movements.


Read this overview of her work at From Mirror Neurons to the Mona Lisa: Visual Art and the Brain.