In a gallery six floors above Broadway, artist Ion Popian is showing off his brain scans. There are three of them in the center of the room, plastic maps roughly 2.5 feet long, a mess of data points and geometry. In the corner, behind a curtain, visitors are donning electroencephalography (EEG) monitors and watching microscale videos designed to stimulate their brains into certain reactions. You can see the result projected on the other side of the wall behind them, inscrutable bumps dimpling into a rotating flat square. When the dimple goes down, Popian tells us, it represents concentration. When the dimple goes up, it represents a sense of calm.

The project is called Mental Fabrications, an art project aiming to map the mind’s mental landscape through a combination of EEG readings and 3D printing. That’s a high-minded way of describing it, but in real tangible terms, the point is just to get a brain signal and print it out in a way that looks interesting and maintains some connection to the source. That sounds simple, but it means tracing a dodgy transmission through a maze of different technologies, most of which have never been used this way before. Popian has done that, and the result is genuinely impressive.

The process starts with a simple $80 Neurosky headset. It’s an EEG monitor, which means it monitors electrical activity along your scalp. Headsets like this were invented to detect epilepsy and monitor coma patients, but they don’t actually tell you much about a normal adult brain, and there are huge variations based on how they’re sitting on your head. For the purposes of the art project, the important signals are alpha waves, a measure of calmness, and another signal that indicates concentration. The computer takes those two signals and, by running them through the visual programming language MaxMSP, emerges with a range of 3D-printed sculptures including the dimple sheet described above.