top of page




ÆSA BJÖRK Shield_2-003
Play Video

“Shield” (2015-ongoing) for glass, electronics, brainwaves, video projections, transducer speakers

A series of collaborative works between the visual artist Æsa Björk and musician / performer Tinna Thorsteinsdóttir

By mapping their brain activity with EEG recordings, Æsa and Tinna set out to interpret the border between an intangible emotional state and the physical manifestation of brain activity. The EEG recordings were transformed into sound waves. The fragile glass shields serve both as canvases depicting the physical movements that took place, as well as soundboards for brain activity triggered by emotional responses and movement. The sound manifests itself as vibrations created by the conductive speakers attached to the glass. By forming a chamber of human proportions the glass shields can be seen as a membrane separating the self from the outside while reflecting an inner human reality which often remains invisible.


"Shield" is a collaborative series of work made with the musician and performer Tinna Thorsteinsdóttir that has taken many years to develop. It started as a conversation about mental states and how certain disruptive factors affect the brain. We then started looking into and recording our own brainwaves while going through physical and mental movements so to speak. After recording a sequence of brainwaves we then got help from a sleep analyst from Iceland to convert them into sound waves that correlated with the video we took while performing the same movements we went through while recording them. By using the glass as both screens and soundboards through the use of transducer speakers attached to its surface the work becomes a whole. Everything is an integral part of the whole and the glass itself is in a sense the skin or membrane in many layers separating the figure and its thoughts from the outside world. The emotional quality this combination creates engages the viewer on a personal level which I hope gives them the space to interpret the work from their own perspective. - Æsa Björk 


Certain events behave like disruptances and expose what we, or our situation are made of, like our Corona situation right now.  


Looking deep into our thoughts and brain activity we looked at ways to manifest the feeling of isolation and from that developed the shields of glass.

I am reminded of the essay “What is it like to be a bat? (1974)* where the philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote about our limited ability to perceive the world around us as conscious beings other than subjectively from a single point of view. As I see it, in order for human beings to strive towards peace we need to remember that in essence we are bound by our own limitations and subjective views and can never really know what it is like for another person to be that person, just as we can not know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. In the work "Shield III" two figures struggle through the same motions and thoughts but the brainwaves recorded during that process are completely different from one another. Like a fingerprint, the patterns our brain creates are individual and out of reach. "Shield" reminds us of the separation between the self and the other and the fragile border between us as human beings that seem to long for connectedness and belonging but are bound by our own perception and experiences. While this may seem like a pessimistic observation I see it also as one of hope since this gives us the opportunity to recognise every human being's uniqueness regardless of gender, nationality, religion or class.
Æsa Björk


*1974, Thomas Nagel "What Is it Like to Be a Bat?", Philosophical Review, pp. 435–50 (repr. in Mortal Questions).


Æsa Björk and Tinna Thorsteinsdóttir discuss and illustrate
the concept, technology, and process for creating "Shield"...