Navigating Impulses: A Conversation with Brant Zheng

Navigating Impulses: A Conversation with Brant Zheng


We caught up with Brant Zheng, a drama and theater student at New York University, for a cup of coffee as we discussed the meanings of electrical impulses, reflections from current environments, perceptions about trend cycles, and the pressures of workout culture. 


“Electrical impulse”, I repeated to Brant, over blaring ambulances on 2nd Avenue. It was a Wednesday afternoon in some coffee shop across the Village East theater, which was in the middle of hosting the vibrant Tribeca Film Festival. Brant swirled his straw in his iced coffee, looking up at me to say:

“I think about human impulses, and a shock wave. I think about how my body tingles from chills during the winter and no matter what, I can’t control that shaking feeling for the moment. Impulse reminds me of instant.

I blink a couple times to take that all in. 

Blinking is controlled by the neural system, interneurons and motor neurons, to provide oxygen to the eyes. Just like blinking the hundreds and thousands of functions our body performs everyday are controlled by cellular information transmitted through neurons. The latest collection by Biskit, “Electrical Impulses”, delves into the exploration of the mind with the understanding of our sensory neurons, whether it be the process of motor neurons firing up your spine to move around, or mirror neurons that allow us to imitate behaviors. These neurons form our thoughts, musings, and reflections on daily life, yet so much external influences take over our lives on a regular basis.

I asked Brant, who is studying drama and theater arts at New York University, about what he is actively reflecting from his external environment.

He looks at the groves of people waiting for last minute tickets at the film festival, where he will be working in the next half an hour. 

Brant Zheng in our Reflection Shirt and MF mini bag 


“I’ve been reflecting a lot on fashion and more so how I express myself recently.” He breathes for a second, where I’m imagining billions of neurons rushing through his body to tell him what to do next. It’s all a little too meta.

“I think it’s this subconscious instinct, to start, where I look at what I find to be cool on other people and then try to create that for myself. Especially with hyperfast trend cycles in New York, I think of oversized silhouettes as an example, and even if I find them to be really cool on other people, I can’t help but think if it’ll look as good on me and if the trend is even going to last that long. I feel like the biggest reflection coming from this is finding some sort of balance that meets both what I want and what I try to emulate.


Emulating, or mirroring comes is an act controlled by mirror neurons, where we mirror the actions of those surrounding us. The tendency to smile when we see someone across the room smile, or in the much more complex case of what Brant is saying, the desire of expression based on what we see going around. It all dives deeper.


The ice continued to melt in my cup. I asked Brant about other examples of finding a balance between personal desire and the structure his environment provides.

“Body image and more so its relationship with workout culture. Specifically, this is more so the digital influence in my life and it’s honestly astonishing to really notice how the digital and physical really meld together now. But yeah, the constant pressure to workout more and to have a certain body shape, even when I know that if I don’t have so much time to focus on workout culture without burning myself out. So that’s the balance of trying to keep myself sane.

I asked what he thought about all the billions of neurons firing through his brain everyday. He looked up, down at his coffee, and back into my eyes and said:

“Neurons are impulse. I mean they’re bringing all the information to my head right now to think out all my thoughts. I think about that impulse that comes from neurons, particularly in acting, when my training focuses on working up and honing my impulses in a scene. So I would say I find it human, and fundamental. They make me act.”

We sat for a second to let the group of fire trucks pass by. My ears rang for a bit, my brain truly told me to stop and breathe. I asked Brant my last question, on how his thought process is impacted as he thinks of the science behind it all. He waits for a final fire truck to pass before saying:

“When I really think about the most natural thing about my brain impacting the way I think, it feels a little too meta, I’m not going to lie. I’ll say that it’s a matter of feeling, when I think about it now, because I feel like I can sense something going on in my body, rather than everything I do and everything I think about happening out of thin air. I feel like now it’s a matter of visuals as well, where I am trying to actively picture “neurons firing”, as if they are shooting up my spine or sending a shock wave like I mentioned earlier. It feels visceral to talk about, think about, and feel all at once.”


Interview by Sahana Srinivasan

Images by Suchitha