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Stephen Auger and collaborators


a mind-bending perceptual ride

IRIS merges rhythmic sound, pulsating light, and vibrational resonance, induces bodily experience beyond the boundaries of the intellectual mind.  


Engineered by top-tier scientists, creatives, and programmers, the IRIS sensorium hovers at an electric intersection of neuroscience, art, and entertainment. “Three parts neurobiology and one part magic,” says creator Stephen Auger, “each IRIS encounter generates a custom creation of wonder and awe.” Light, color, sound, and story guide each adventurer on a journey unique to their biology, synchronizing their senses and reconnecting them to the magic of forgotten experiences.


Auger invites participants inside a small space where they are introduced to both sound and light frequencies, which induce visualizations of spirals, fractals, waves, radials, zigzags, honeycombs, pinwheels, and “seed” patterns. 




In 1819, Jan Purkinje, the father of modern neuroscience, first described the swirling geometric visual patterns brought on by diffuse flickering light as phenomena of perception rather than a supernatural encounter. Profoundly influential experiences are found through all recorded time from cave art, shamanistic trance to Pythagorean geometry. Adepts and seekers have long seeked the night sky, caves, and sacred spaces,  at specific seasonal moments, to elevate shafts and particles of light into visionary encounters. 


When the human visual system encounters specific frequencies of diffuse flickering light, most people experience beautiful swirling colorful geometric patterns. The dynamics of the patterns are related to altered neuronal activity between the thalamus and the visual cortex, but there is still much that is not well understood. The phenomena is an interesting hack, which reveals the inner workings of the human visual system without the need for pharmacological assistance.


The development of IRIS has been made possible with support from Harvard Medical School, MIT, and UC Berkeley.



The IRIS experience is produced by Axle Contemporary and premiered at The Santa Fe Institute's InterPlanetary Festival and at the CURRENTS New Media Festival. Learn more about Futurition Santa Fe.













at Iris

at Iris







The IRIS team

Stephen Auger

Transdisciplinary Artist

Stephen has worked as a color theorist, light artist, and painter for over four decades. His current projects involve immersive visceral and kinesthetic experiences of rhythmic light and sound that engage participants in the most astonishing and timeless states of the human sensory experience. This work draws upon the disciplines of chronobiology, cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, and technology. Trained at the Center of Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, Stephen’s pieces can be seen in private, corporate and museum collections around the world, including those of Yale University, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Santa Fe Institute, and the Carnegie Institute.

Dr. Benjamin Smarr

Ph.D. Neurobiology and Behavior

Dr. Smarr studies the temporal structures that biological systems make as they move through time. Currently an NIH research fellow at UC Berkeley, his work focuses on understanding how physiological dynamics like sleep, circadian rhythms and behavior are shaped by the brain, and how disturbances to those cycles caused by contemporary society can give rise to disease. His work explores developing personalized and predictive tools for future medicine and future education, though his skills extend to the fields of Life Sciences, Microscopy, Neuroscience, Sleep Science, and Computational Analysis. He holds a Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Behavior from the University of Washington.

Mikey Sklar

Visionary Programmer

Mikey has worked with hardware of all sizes and functionalities for the last 25 years, and found his focus in biohacking, circuit board design, CNC machining, and 3D printing. While on Wall Street he was responsible for three of the world’s top one hundred computers, and has contributed to hundreds of open source hardware projects. He began attending Burning Man in 2001 and got into wearable electronics in order to avoid being hit by hippies on bikes. Since 2006 he has also consulted for Popular Science, Make Magazine, and Adafruit Industries.

Jeff Bova

Composer, Grammy Award-winning producer

A Grammy Award-winning producer, Jeff has appeared on over 300 albums - many of them going on to become platinum sellers. Among the impressive roster of artists who have enlisted Jeff’s help are Katy Perry, Beth Hart, Luther Vandross, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and many, many others. His passion, experience, and talent make him one of the music industry’s most sought-after and respected arrangers, programmers, and composers.

Lili Kyle

Audience Engagement Logistics

Lili is the owner of Urban Art Tripping LLC, in Santa Fe. She works to connect collectors and audiences with artists and artwork through studio visits and excursions.

Todd Polenberg

Lighting & Effects

Todd is a creative engineer, musician, programmer, and artist living and working in New York City. His special interests include reinvented ritual, time- based abstraction, experimental theater, and the Uncanny. He was the Associate Creative Director of Special Effects with Blue Man Group from 2012 to 2017, has made electronic music for over 20 years, and electronic + interactive artwork for over 15.

Ben Sharpe

Eminent Developer/Programmer

Designer of App, Developer of Community Integration Capabilities

Ben worked at Apple a long time ago and was awarded several patents for his work while there  (remember the Newton?). He was also was awarded patents at Starwave for his work on the hit 1995 project Castle Infinity, a massively-multiplayer online community space and game for kids which - thanks to volunteers who took over its management - still thrives on at


Alejandro Stepenberg

Storytelling Evolver, Narrative Development, Scriptwriting, App Content & Continuity

Alejandro is a produced and published playwright, screenwriter, and director with a trans-artistic background that includes training in acting, clown, mask, Butoh, and Shakespeare. His work has been projected and performed in England and the UK, and translated into Russian and Macedonian. Since graduating from the London Film School  with an MA in Screenwriting, he has continued to work as a scriptwriter, creative development consultant, narrative designer, imaginer of story solutions, and language alchemist with a focus on changing perception by challenging the ways we tell stories about ourselves and to each other.

George Greer, M.D.

Medical & Psychiatric Advisor, President Heffter Research Institute

Dr. Greer’s interest in the healing potentials of psychedelic medicines began in 1980 when he synthesized MDMA with Alexander Shulgin and conducted experimental sessions for the next five years.  He is a co-founder and President of the Heffter Research Institute, which has organized, reviewed and funded psychedelic research for 25 years.  Recent work has focused on psilocybin and the music used to facilitate therapeutic psychedelic sessions.


Margaret Livingstone, Ph.D.

The Livingstone Lab, Harvard Medical School

Margaret Livingstone is the Takada Professor if Neurobiology in the Department of Neurobiology and Director of The Livingstone Lab at Harvard Medical School. She authored the book Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing. Dr. Livingstone has mentored Stephen Auger’s exploration of perception and his current work with hallucination and entrainment.


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