Časopis u duhu vremena. Neuroestetika je miks najnovijih znanstvenih spoznaja i tradicionalnih pitanja. Riječ je o mnoštvu zanimljivih tema, od odnosa neuroznanosti i umjetnosti do pluripotentne hibridnosti, biopolitike, kognitivnog kapitalizma, arhitekture, filma. Ne treba se bojati redukcionizma, autori primjerice često spominju Deleuzea i Guattarija.
The Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory was started in 1998, a
project of Warren Neidich which seems a vast array of diverse
contributors in both print, event and conference form.
- Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #5 (2007-11) Neurobiopolitics, Pluripotentiality and Cognitive Capitalism, a work in progress...
- Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #4 (2005-07) Conference of Neuroaesthetics
- Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #3 (2003-04) Buildings, Movies and Brains.
- Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #2 (2000-02) Cinema and the Brain
- Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #1 (1997-99) Introduction to Neuro-Aesthetic Theory
- Phantom Limb (2004) A Neurobiological Diagnosis with Aesthetic, Cultural and Philosophical Implications
Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #5 (2007-11)
Neurobiopolitics, Pluripotentiality and Cognitive Capitalism, a work in progress…
Pluripotential (Shifter 16)
Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #3 (2003-04)
Buildings, Movies and Brains.
Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #2 (2000-02)
Cinema and the Brain
Artists Collaborate with Neurologists
Cinema and the Brain
Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #1 (1997-99)
Introduction to Neuro-Aesthetic Theory
Phantom Limb (2004)
A Neurobiological Diagnosis with Aesthetic, Cultural and Philosophical Implications
1. The Body Fantastic: Neuroscientific Explanations
2. Displacements of the Imaginary and Virtual Schemata
3. Co-evolutionary Cultural and Aesthetic Practices
The Re-distribution of the Sensible
Download longer exhibition statement as PDF (136kb).
The “distribution of the sensible” (Partage du Sensible) refers to the implicit law governing the sensible order that parcels out places and formsof Participation in a common world by first establishing the modes of perception within which these are inscribed. The distribution of the sensible thus produces a system of self-evident facts of perception based on the set horizons and modalities of what is visible and audible as well as what can be said, thought, made or done. Strictly speaking, distribution therefore refers both to forms of inclusion and to forms of exclusion. The sensible of course, does not refer to what shows good sense or judgment but to what is aistheton or capable of being apprehended by the senses.
Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics
But sovereignty today organizes this distribution with sophisticated apparati that are reminiscent of the Society of Control expressed in Michael Hardt’s and Tony Negri’s Empire. The logics of perception and experience are no longer materialistically defined only by contours of geometric and linear time and space arranged hierarchically in a rigid lattice but rather follow curved, non-linear Rheimannian paradigms that are expressed in complicated, non-hierarchical, rhizomatic shifting patterns. Consider for a moment the way commodities are now linked together as branded networks that intensify their desire quotient or how people communicate on chat rooms or move in and out of blog sites. Sovereignty, utilizing these methods and those of the global market place with the help of the continuing scientific research on perception and cognition, has conspired in creating powerful complex networks of attention which allow for the manufacture of explicit “connectiveness” that today defines the distribution of the sensible. Phatic Stimuli, as Paul Virilio refers to them, have evolved into highly attention grabbing conglomerates of stimuli that act as multiplicities and operate beyond the sensorium reaching into the folded gyri and sulci of the brain itself. These networks form a hegemonic cultural syntax which is inscribed en mass on the society as a whole producing new forms of subjectivity and in the case of world tuned in to global media, a bounded multitude. When these networks are internalized and become part of the automatic operation of the body’s or mind’s habitual relationships they form a Society of Control rather then the Disciplinary Society. Self-Censorship is a perfect example of the Society of Control and how insidiously this process becomes self-evident. These images together produce the “Institutional Understanding.” “Institutional understanding” is the framework through which most of us operate in the real world of material things. But artists also create their own distribution of the sensible. They use their own historical referents, materials, processes, apparati, spaces and performances, to create complex assemblages that together compete with institutional arrangements for the attention of the brain and mind. Their artistic imaginations produce practices that allow for the exploration of remote territories, like the paranormal, non-linear, psychic, and insensible, which pulsate beyond the reach of the formulaic methodologies of the philosophers logic and the scientist experimental design. This is not to imply that art is disengaged and distanced from life as some form of hermetic endeavor but quite the opposite. It is embedded in the interwoven fabric of social, political, economic, psychological, historical and spiritual relations. It in fact commingles with it and forms complex systems of recurrent and recursive loopings that in the end help produce novel forms of networks that empower the imagination of each receptive/productive subject with new possibilities for creativity which in the end reconstitute the cultural landscape with new objects, object relations, contexts and arrangements. They inhabit the same spaces and temporalities as the institutional arrangements that characterize the institutional understanding. Their presence however acts to bend and contort it, in the end, altering its static and rigid arrangements in significant ways. Works like installation art, performative sculpture and urban geographies act to redistribute the facts of this distribution of the sensible while conceptually-based works, relational aesthetics and the institutional critique operate on more metaphysical levels superimposing meaning, contexts and critiques upon it in order to change the way those distributions are read and understood and processed for instance as memories. For instance, Situationism has taught us to kinesthetically understand the urban space differently through the derive and detournement, attend to what before was uninteresting and insignificant, and process all of this in ways that allow us to understand the significance, of the urban sprawl in the context of a grand conceptual schema of the meaning of contemporary life. (Of course the institutional understanding is always attempting to co-opt its methods, terminology and processes.) The Re-distribution of the Sensible took place at Magnus Müller Gallery in Berlin in the spring of 2007 attempting to investigate some contemporary art practices that are addressing these issues.
Conceptual Art as Neurobiologic Praxis
“Conceptual Art as a Neurobiologic Praxis” and the The Neuro-aesthetic Reading room are two projects that were originally separate but now have been joined together. “Conceptual Art as a Neurobiologic Praxis” was an exhibition I curated at the Thread Waxing Space, New York City, in 1999 which attempted to make explicit certain trends and ideas that I considered important parts of the history of Conceptual Art but which had not, up to that moment, been adequately explored. The Neuro-aesthetic Reading Room is still an imaginary project proposal which in many ways builds on the concepts of Conceptual Art as a Neurobiological Praxis. In fact the latter is now incorporated as part of the project. Because both operate somewhere in between art works and curatorial projects they are presented here as one project in the gallery section of the website. The accompanying details of artworks included in the Thread Waxing Exhibition act I hope to highlight the type of strategies and models some artists today are using either consciously or unconsciously to approach ideas of mind and brain. Conceptual Art as a Neurobiologic Praxis
The history of Conceptual Art like all art historical movements is continually under a state of siege as the changing cultural milieu in which it lives mutates the facts of its origins, development and relevance. Conceptual Art like Situationism which preceded it and Minimalism, Pop Art and Op Art which was contemporaneous with it had its own founding artists who in their desire to create an identifiable character or brand unconsciously tried to define and limit the parameters of its meaning, economy and distribution.. This of course is always hopeless, at best creating a discourse at worst creating a dogmatic regime that becomes deterministic and exclusive, and in the end results in its own demise. Such is the history of Conceptual Art which in its “pure” form, according to Lucy Lippard,, lasts only seven years running from 1965-1972. However Conceptual Art is not and was not, in spite of itself, a linear practice and emerges in the context of many streams of art practice, including Letterism and Situationsim, philosophy including Structuralism and Phenomenology, Infomatics like Cybernetics, psychosocial discourses like Psychoanalysis and Marxism and the political activism of the late 1960′s. The degree to which each of these contributes to the active image of conceptualism is the result of different networks of relationships that form between them at different moments and create nodal intensities in an open, not closed, autopoetic system of multiple feed forward, feedback, reentrant systems, and temporal synchronicities which are formed as systems of porous information modules linked together by dynamic intermittent temporal synchronicities. I am not here trying to analyze this system of relations into some finite set of determinations but instead to give the reader some idea of the massive complexity of this system and the degree to which organizations of art breathe and live in a system of multiple meanings, realities and definitions which in the end give them very complicated and folded structures which almost defies interpretation and analysis. For it is within this complexity which other forms and other meanings hibernate laying latent, remaining in a state of hypothermia and very slow metabolism, awaiting the proper set of conditions in which to emerge and once again become. We see examples of this all the time as certain artists’ work all of a sudden becomes once again important or in the way certain bodies of works, which had gained notoriety in there day, begin to be appreciated and recuperated. This is certainly true of the many careers of Marcel Duchamp but recently we have also witnessed this phenomena in a renewed interest in the work of Robert Smithson, Anthony McCall and Gordon Matta Clark.
Some would argue that an explanation of this phenomena can be found in the way that the social, political, historical, psychological, economic conditions of the late nineties and early 21st century share important qualities with those that defined the late sixties and early seventies such that this recovered work expresses key incites common to both eras. For instance the work of Sol Lewitt very much influenced by infomatics of the sixties develops renewed intensity in the context new media art today. His now famous quote from Artforum Magazine (5:10 Summer 1967) attests to this. “When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art” sounds very much like a quote from Cybernetics by Norbert Weiner.
Others would argue that in fact that these works and the other works that carry for instance, a minimalist codon, were never understood completely and their reappraisal concerns a kind of historicity in which the works that followed have given their primary sources new meanings not originally appreciated, at that time but which emerge within the newly configured cultural context. For instance ideas of time and space have been radically altered since the invention of the Internet and with this new understanding primary works of art that forewarned of this new condition for instance Robert Smithsons “Quasi-Infinities and the Waning of Space”, Arts Magazine (New York) 41, no.1 and John Baldessari, “Painting for Kubler”, 1969 have added significance. Time and space is now generally understood as intensive and folded and complex and these mutated conditions lend new levels of understanding to what these artists intuitively were trying to say. Another permutation of this explanation concerns the way a work of art or a movement is never really understood at all and that other meanings emerge that lay sleeping in the interstices of its being. That is to say the emerging contexts reconfigure the artworks themselves so that their determining factors are not what they were understood to be. In fact the founding artists were responding to conditions that would become and had not yet formed and that these artists, as they are simply observers, spectators, are a product of newly formed culturally derived subjectivities, stumbled through their creations without understanding what they were doing but doing so with extreme elegance. Finally another possibility for emerging interest in art of the past is the condition of the observer who interfaces with it. Such is the condition of the mutated observer whose reconfigured neural networks, reset as they have been by mutating temporal and spatial conditions resulting from the cultural incorporation of new media practice at the end of the twentieth century, view and experience the work in quite new and radical ways. Space does not allow me to go to deeply into this explanation and for those interested in a more in depth analysis please see my chapter entitled, “Blow-up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain” in the book of the same title.
The above discussion is especially relevant for the history of Conceptual Art. Recently a number of exhibitions have attempted to throw new light on the history of Conceptual Art. Most notably are L’Art Conceptual, une perspective,( Musee de Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris,1990) Reconsidering the object of art, (MOCA LA,1998) and finally Global Conceptualism: Points of Origins, (Queens Museum, New York, 1999). Conceptual Art as a Neuro-biologic Praxis, 1999 is another recent example of this historical reappraisal by also attempting a rereading or expansion of the roots, causes and concerns of conceptualism while at the same time linking it to the history of artistic and technologic apparatuses and processes as they float between the investigation of perception and cognition on the one hand and artistic production on the other.
Jonathan Crary would link the parallel history of technologies of observation in the nineteenth century to the emergence of a new kind of observer. The same could be said of course about the late 20th century. New media according to the likes of Manuel Delanda moves us away from an extensive culture to an intensive one. Sequential, linear, heirarchial forms of information are substituted for by folded, non-linear, multiplicities of meaning. This new intensive culture is expressed in an intensive subjectivity. One only has to glance at a Frank Gehry’s Bilboa or the graphics used in Wired Magazine to know how this subjectivity is expressed.. This is another important subtext of Conceptual Art as a Neurobiologic Praxis.
Neuro-aesthetic Reading Room(Conceptual Art as a Neurobiologic Praxis is reinvigorated in its newer instantiation as part of “Moments of Unease: Conjunctions of Neuro-science and Art in the Twentieth Century.”) Before progressing to describe the Neuro-aesthetic reading room a concise definition is in order. Neuro-aesthetics is the study of the development of three streams of knowledge, which are progressing in parallel, but which at times interact together to create new forms of information and images which can be used by the imagination and understanding to create new kinds of thought. These three discourses are the history of techniques as they relate to photography, film and new media, Neuro-science and art. Neuro-aesthetics describes the dance between these three very different methods of investigation that at times exchange partners. It is my contention that research and understanding of the nervous system as it is disseminated through kinds of media forms the basis of new optical and acoustic technologies which extend its abilities, and as a result of the new conditions of visual and auditory culture they produce, artists are affected in ways that stimulate them to make new kinds of images and artworks. In essence, the art works reflect in themselves directly and indirectly the current condition of Neuro-science at a specific moment as it affects ideas of perception and cognition.
1. The Neuro-aesthetic Reading Room is a “trans-disciplinary space” that has three main objectives:
a. To create a transportable library and social space for the creation, production and dissemination of a new kind of trans-disciplinary information based on Neuro-science and art interactions of form and processes. Artist and Neuro-scientist are interested in similar questions like memory, object perception, colour theory, the imagination, creativity and consciousness and the reading room will highlight these interests and how they become connected.The Neuro-aesthetic Reading Room borrows on a long history of artists using transportable artworks sometimes called Parasitic Architecture. Following the example of mobile architectures built by architects like Richard Buckminster Fuller and Archigram contemporary artists have used these kinds of structures to radicalize the work of art by moving out of the picture frame into real space. Rirkrit Tiravanija, Rosemarie Trockel and Jorge Pardo are just some of the artists working in this manner.
b. To create an exhibition entitled “Moments of Unease: Conjunctions of Neuro-science and Art in the Twentieth Century” that will give the reading room a context. This exhibition traces artists’ work beginning with Cezanne, Serault and Duchamp continuing through Richard Hamilton, Bridget Riley and Robert Morris and recently manifesting in the work of artists like Carsten Holler, Douglas Gordon and Olifur Eliason.
c. To create a space where random social interactions between artistic and Neuro-scientific professionals can accidentally meet and as a result develop ideas for interdisciplinary interactions in the form of hybridized projects.
In my particular case the art crate becomes an armature through which a telescopic space is reconfigured. The term telescopic space delineates two main considerations of the reading room. First: many walls built into the body of the crate spring out. Secondly, telescopic refers to the relationship between the development of optical apparatti as extensions of the body that define the history of visual technologies and their special relationship to the visual system and the brain. Physically and mechanically this configuration allows for the crate to transform itself into a travelling reading room and social interactive space. Library walls spring out horizontally, a projection screen made of cloth springs out vertically, a sitting room/lounge is built into the inside front wall which is opened on the crates arrival. The library contains book titles concerned with Neuro-aesthetics. The Reading Room will travel globally after its tour of England, and will also be featured on-line at a new web site where web cam transmission will detail day-by-day occurrences of such things as symposia and social interactions as well as accessing a compilation of on-line websites that are related to Neuro-aeshetics that will be listed and made available.
2. Accompanying the reading room and surrounding it will be an exhibition entitled, “Moments of Unease: Conjunctions of Neuro-science and Art in the Twentieth Century.” This exhibition traces the affect of knowledge coming out of physiologic psychology, neuro-biology and cognitive neuroscience that implicitly or explicitly affected artist in their art production. This exhibition would not feature real work but instead simply photocopies tacked to the wall. First there was the work of Marcel Duchamp characterized as it was by an interest in the apparatti of photography and cinema on one hand and that of the neurophysiology of the eye and brain on the other. Duchamp’s work such as the “Rotoreliefs”, “The Stereoptican Cards”, “Tu m” and “Temoins oculists” plus his statements concerning anti-retinal art attest to this. The second phase took place around the nineteen sixties. The advent of information technology in relation to feedback and feed forward mechanisms of neural loops as described in Norbert Weiner’s book Cybernetics, an interest in the “phenomena-logically” based work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, an reawakened interest in the work of Marcel Duchamp and the use of psychotropic drugs led artists like Richard Hamilton, Bridget Riley, Donald Judd, and Joyce Koslov to make work that explored the intersection of art and mind.
“Conceptual Art as a Neurobiologic Praxis” is a restaging of the original exhibition at the Thread Waxing Space, New York City, 1999, will make up the final historical period of this exhibition. The exhibition included twenty-five artists that would form the basis of works by contemporary artists who have been affected by the advent of the internet, artificial intelligence, network theory, binding, neural networks, and intelligent media. Participating artists include: Ricci Albenda, Uta Barth, Sam Durant, Eric Duyckaerts, Spencer Finch, Carl Fudge, Rainer Ganahl, Liam Gillick, Douglas Gordon, Grennan and Sperandio, Jonathan Horowitz, Beom Kim, Anne Kugler, Ann Lislegaard, T. Kelly Mason, Jack Pierson, Jason Rhoades, Mathew Ritchie, Andrea Robbins, Thomas Ruff and Charlene Von Heyl
The exhibition was divided into three parts of which artists’ work illustrated. The Retinal-Cortical Axis, as the name implies, looked at the kind of visual processing occurring in the initial phases of perception where the image of the world is transformed into electric signals. The retinal-cortical axis concerns the transfer of these electrical signals from the initial events occurring in the retina at the level of the photoreceptors to those taking place at the optic chiasm, lateral geniculate nucleus, optic radiation and finally the visual cortex. Artists in this part of the show explored through their artistic practices the various aesthetic possibilities created by the anatomical and physiological conditions present in these structures like stereopsis (Grennan and Sperandio ,Ruff), gaze (Barth), visual field (Finch, Kim), and anatomy( Albenda,Von Heyl). The second part titled The Word-Image Dialectic explored the relation between text and image. Neurobiologically this work looked at the relation between the visual cortex and those areas of the brain involved in the reception and production of language like the Arcuate Nucleus, Temporal Lobe, Wernicke’s and Brocas area were explored. Works dealing with images and text were an important component of conceptualist practice in the 1960′s and artists are still involved in issues surrounding language today except that its referents have expanded beyond an analysis of sign and signifier into issues of mapping and cultural discourse. Artists work in this domain looked at such things as language acquisition (Robbins ,Ganahl, Horowitz), neologisms (Pierson), dyslexia( Albenda, Durant) and symbolic meaning ( Durant ,Robbins). Finally Global Chaosmosis explored how the whole brain operated. This term was derived from two sources. First Gilles Deluze’s notion of chaosmosis and the rhizome and secondly from global mapping as it is referred to by Gerald Edelman and Pierre Changeux in their descriptions of the developing brain sculpted by experience. Global Mapping defines the way the disparate parts of the brain, which are working in parallel on certain cognitive tasks, are synchronized together in order that all their outputs can be shared as a unity. The underlying thematic construct here concerned the way that our cultural conditions had recently undergone a radical shift in which hierarchial, sequential, analogue, arborealike had become instead intensive, folded, complex, digital and rhizomatic and as a consequence reconfigured the neural networks of our brains into what I was referring to as an Intensive Brain. Artist here explored the nature of brain waves (Finch), cerebral lateralization (Duyckaerts) mapping (T. Kelly Mason and Ritchie), hypnosis (Lislegaard), dreaming and myth, (Rhoades and Kugler) thinking, (Gillick), artificial intelligence (Fudge) and consciousness ( Gillick, Rhoades, Ritchie and Duyckaerts, Gordon) in relation to the above mentioned changing cultural conditions.
One question that comes up quite frequently is whether or not the artists chosen for this show were intentionally making work about the brain or were intentionally utilizing neuro cognitive strategies to make their work. The answer to this question is complex. In certain situations like Ricci Albenda, Charlene Von Heyl, Mathew Ritchie, Douglas Gordon, Eric Duyckaerts and Spencer Finch the answer is definitely yes. In other cases the similarities of what is being explored by neuroscience and that of art were so close that an investigation of one automatically involves the other. In other words the synchronicity between the two fields contextualized the work of art with out the artists awareness or intent. That is true for Uta Barth, Grennan and Sperandio, Rainer Ganahl, Carl Fudge and Thomas Ruff. In the case of the others it came down to a curatorial perogative based on a my special knowledge of the field of neuroscience and cultural studies. As a result I was able to make connections and draw links between what I saw as essential components of the works and the kinds of issues that in my mind they referred to. The intentionality of the artist is not always a determining factor because in some cases the works are so ripe with meaning and causality that any one reading would be simple minded. The work of art also mutates in the sea of relations that enfold it and as those conditions change so does it. Liam Gillickís work is a case in point. Yes it has to do with thinking but in this show I was more interested in its concerns with social relations and the way that these relations became recontextualized in the context of discussions of the brain and consciousness.
3. The third component of the reading room is its “inter-activation quality”. This is a term to describe a kind of plug-in that helps the user/participant navigate the space in a creative and amusing way. When the user enters the space he or she signs in on a computer interface set up in the middle of the room and is assigned a number that relates to a tiny homing device that the individual is asked to attach to himself or herself. This homing device will help the computer record that individuals route through the reading room and will also collate that route in relation to other routes by other individuals doing the same thing. In the reading room their exists a compartment outlined in red, called the “red zone”, that contains one book from each of the ten subjects of neuro-aesthetics for instance philosophy of mind, visual culture, neuroscience. Each of these books was chosen by the artist as key references of neuro-aesthetics and is electronically connected to other volumes of like subject matter distributed locally by topic and diffusely throughout the reading room. So for instance Neurophiloshy by Patricia Churchland would obviously connect to books in the section on philosophy but might also be connected to books in the neuroscience or psychology section. Each book therefore has a multiplicity of connections that were formulated by the artist and in a way represents the workings of his mind. When the viewer or user takes one of the books from the red zone, this by the way is optional as the reading room can be freely accessed, it sends out a radio signal to a set of prescribed books with which it has an allegiance and causes a red light to flash above its placement in the shelf. One book may cause many such signals simultaneously and the user then chooses which related book to choose from. It creates another meta-category of how books are related to each other beyond subject matter. This book is hooked to the same referential network so that when it is chosen it to sends out a radio signal to related books one of which is always contained in the red zone. Consequently the user is led around the reading room according to his or her choices and selections. When finished the user receives a printout of their individual journey and the books they chose. It is like a poster and on the bottom sheet is written, Neuro-aesthetic Reading Room, the date and time. The purpose of this is to increase the desire of each user to participate with the piece. Over the course of the exhibition the computer will record many such journeys and an algorhythm will combine these separate trips to see if any patterns emerge. As the reading room travels worldwide it might be interesting to view cross cultural differences as they emerge.
Architecture of Mind
Steven Holl | Chiasmic Crossing“There is double and crossed situating of the visible in the tangible and the tangible in the visible: the two maps are complete, and yet they do not merge into one. The two parts are total parts and yet are not superposable.”
-Merleau-Ponty, “The Intertwining-The Chiasm”
In Kiasmus ” an interior mystery and the exterior horizon , which, like two hands clasping each other, form the architectonic equivalent of a public invitation. ”
-Steven Holl, “Kiasma monograph”
Steven Holl asks the same question of architecture that Merleau- Ponty asks of philosophy . Can the ambulating sentient being embedded as he or she is in the matrix of concretized values as they are inscribed in that being experience and understand seeing in a context articulated for that purpose? How can a building such as Kiasma, function simultaneously as the “frame” of the experience of and for visual art and as an embodiment of the very process of seeing. For Holl like Ponty uses the analogy of the optic chiasm with its “inflected” decussating fiber structure which appropriates the visual field like a highway cloverleaf, allowing each hemifield to be conjoined, left side to right sided brain and right side to left side of the brain, to serve a as model to appropriate the entire visual apparatus including the eye and the folded surface of the brain, for his purpose.
Holl uses each element of the building as another opportunity to deal with the structure of light and its processing: the building operates as a kind of surrogate for the eye. On the first level of analysis there is the light catching section, functioning somewhat like a pupil, which captures the warm light of the a horizontal sun and diffuses it through carefully oriented apertures and there is the “sun path reversal” in which the building, like gaze movements of the eye, follows a reverse path of the sun’s path between 11 am and 6 p.m…
Coextensive with these aforementioned qualities of seeing is the process by which seeing becomes other. Seeing is evaluated in terms of itself and is analyzed as process. Thus Kiasma reveals a succession of curved enframed structures as rooms in which the different qualities of light are created because the light enters each room in many different ways: in the journey from one room to the next we experience the transformation of light as data. This evolving ambiance is linked to the type of art or installations exhibited in each room. ” We considered the range of contemporary art work, and tried to anticipate the needs of a variety of artists including those whose works depend on a quiet atmosphere to bring out their full intensity.” (1)
The context creates spaces in which how one reads the work of art will be affected. Ones’ journey through this museum is like that of the continuum of changes that take place as the light transformations which inaugurate the sensation of seeing at the retina, the light sensitive film like membrane at the back of eye, and then move through the component parts of the visual system, through the lateral geniculate body, optic radiation, visual cortex and on and on through the myriad of association cortices. Each of these areas of the brain have specific architectonic microbiologic structures which reconfigure the information extracted in specific ways before sending it on along to the next stage. Each areas transformations is necessary for the successive liberation of information. For instance even though the image of the world is reversed and upside-down at the retinal surface we experience as right side up by the time it is experienced by the brain. But the building like two hands which enclose themselves in each other or like the two optic nerves of the optic chiasm which embrace each other in an ecstatic moment of folding and plication, the macular fibers are diverted from their straight egress and fold upon themselves , intertwines, at its inflection, with itself and with nature. Kiasma uses this anatomy as a model for an architectural statement as Merleau-Ponty did. “The “line of culture” forms a link to Finlandia Hall, intertwining with a “line of nature” from the landscape and Toolo Bay, and lines extending from the existing city, grid.” (2)
It is this bending and merging into each other yet not like each other that Holl’s building takes hold of the real meaning of seeing. For just as the optic chiasm is affected by the structures that surround it, for instance an enlarged pituitary gland upon which it rests can distort it’s transmitting abilities, so to is Kiasma embedded in certain sociologic, political, cultural, economic and aesthetic relations which affect the way it is seen and perceived and cognated. As Bernard Cache says ” Our brain is not the seat of a neuronal cinema that reproduces the world: rather our perceptions are inscribed on the surface of things, as images amongst images.” (3) In other words in this rebuff to Descartes, Cache envisions a projective creative changing vision which is the result of an ever contextualized vision. The point of inflection in which in one grand gesture the buildings crossing imbricates itself , like the links of a chain, to a series of relations which begin with the nature, architecture’s’ source, and flow outward towards the city through a kind of vernacular history of the city that surrounds it. The building becomes a kind of knot/not that ties a cultural, historical city together and at the same time freeing it to move towards the future.
1. Steven Holl, Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, 1998, page 16.
2. Steven Holl, “Kiasma, working process”, Architectural League of New York, 1995.
3. Micheal Speaks, “Folding Toward a New Architecture” in Earth Moves, Bernard Cache, MIT Press, 1995.
Linda Roy | Tonustal“Swiftly the brain becomes an enchanted loom, where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of sub-patterns”
Charles Scott Sherrington
The early 20th century theoretical biologist Jacob Johan von Uexküll, noticed the decidedly ambiguous relationship between a stimulus and the excitation patterns that ensued. He realized a reaction was not simply triggered or fired by one fixed center of coordination. Instead, internally generated rhythmic activity like tiny pulses, seemed to indicate that each small part of a nervous system was itself a mini reflex center. Coordination appeared to be located everywhere and nowhere at once. For von Uexküll, coordinated behavior was a consequence of certain regular, distributed criteria. It was variable, plastic, and flowing something realizing itself over time, under certain conditions.
But precisely how these fluid processes were regulated remained a mystery. Von Uexküll proposed the topographic concept of the Tonustal, or the “tonus valley,” a model of displaceable fluids using gradients as a form of regulation. If nervous excitation is prevented from spreading in one part of an organism, it moves to another location as if in a valleyed landscape along which it naturally flows. In the case of the Tonustal the plastic distribution system comprises a variable nerve net across which impulses move, are caught and take form rather than being transmitted in a linear chain-reaction manner along a prescribed path as Sherrington earlier had thought.
‘Beharringstendenz’ and ‘Magneteffekt’Von Uexküll’s Tonustal remains a conductive model. Though able to explain, if vaguely, why a single stimulus can result in a range of response forms, it fails to address those strangely spontaneous, rhythmic activities that unfailingly suggest generative processes at play. In the 1930s, after an extensive comparative study of animal locomotion producing two miles of tracings, the systems physiologist Erich von Holst identified a neural oscillator and defined it as a system effecting periodic behavior. Von Holst may be said to have done for the neural oscillator what Sherrington did for the reflex. Examining the multiple ways in which Labus, a fish distinguished by the fact that it swims using rhythmic fin motions while keeping its body immobile, synchronized its fin movements, he arrived at two basic principles that characterize the coordinative properties of oscillators: the Baharrungstendenz and the Magneteffect. Beharrungstendenz or the tendency of an oscillator to maintain its rhythm, leads to totally synchronized movements like chewing, breathing, and running, which von Holst referred to as states of absolute coordination. These steady, rhythmic oscillations work in clear contrast to the Magneteffect, which is the effect one oscillator exercises over another of different frequency so that it seems magnetically to draw and couple it to its own frequency. Phase slippages and temporal drifts, the outcome of a latent and perpetual struggle between Beharrungstendenz and Mageneteffect render infinitely variable couplings, easily forming larger compositions with smoothly altering tempos. Accelerated and decelerated running are states of relative coordination. Plastic forms such as dance are also manifestations of this phenomenon where oscillatory motions combine, forming molar ensembles moving fluidly from one mode to another. Sherrington’s reflex arc intervenes here as an adaptive agent in these fields of oscillators. By introducing information from the outside into this highly tuned but otherwise hermetic ensemble, the reflex arc sensitizes ensuing activities to changing conditions in the environment.
Here coordination is clearly plastic, variable, and adaptive, a versatile tiling of many scales of activity in space and time. Neural oscillators are an elementary unit of a nervous system. Coupled oscillators are prototypes of a time-dependent nervous geometry.
PlasticityIn everyday usage, when we say something shows plasticity, we imply that it can be molded or readily made to assume (and to retain) a new shape. Probably the term should not be used in relation to living systems, since plasticity is something found in inert, inanimate material. The nervous system is living and changing all the time; and while it can be induced to change shape by surgical or other traumatic means, it cannot be induced to maintain a new shape without being killed. Yet the concept of plasticity is used in relation to other growing systems; one talks about molding the character of a young person, or molding the shape of a tree by selective pruning. What is meant by such cases is that constraints are applied so that the form of the organism changes and future growth is differently channeled.
Plasticity in the nervous system means an alteration in structure or function brought about by development¹ or experience. But not just any alteration, to qualify for term plasticity, an alteration has to show pattern or order. Plasticity here means patterned alteration of organization.
Richard L. Gregory | The Oxford Companion to The Mind p623
“Remapping” investigates new ideas concerning mapping as manifest in art but which are generated by algorithms that link different websites or are inspired by neural network theory.
5 Statements on Neuroaesthetics:
- Neuroaesthetics has generated new tools with which to understand and elucidate the history and the production of art. Through its’ window works of art have been re-sampled to create a productive phylogeny of aesthetic forms, which beyond their primary meaning as art works functioning in the aesthetic field, can also explain questions that formerly were the jurisdiction of Neuroscience, The Philosophy of Consciousness and Evolutionary Psychology just to name a few.
- Neuroaesthetics is a dynamic process in flux through which aesthetic ideas and methods pertaining to perception, concept, the phenomenal, illusions, just to name a few, which have always formed the latent content of aesthetic practice are fore-grounded. As such, it clears another path to be added to the already existing histories of art in which artistic practice can also help to play a role in the investigation of the brain. As an art historical tool it follows in the path of Rudolph Arnheim, E.H. Gombrich and recently Francesco Varella except that in its contemporary form it attempts to move the discussion away from primary structures towards a theory of the production of the mutating subject in an evolving cultural field.
- Neuroaesthetics imports, displaces, appropriates, deterritorializes and reterritorializes the ideas of neuroscience into artistic practice and thereby commits it to a very different history, context and set of genealogic conditions.
- Neuroaesthetics realizes that optical phenomena embedded in the
structure of an artwork can play a significant role in how that artwork
is perceived and cogitated. It is not, however, the whole artwork rather
it is enmeshed in a network of cultural and historical conditions that
give it meaning.
These conditions cannot be stripped from it without altering and changing it into something else. These same cultural conditions also re-make the subject as an observer in two important ways. First by affecting how, by what means, and what he or she pays attention to and secondly by changing the matter of the brain itself. Recent theories called Neural Darwinism and Neural Constructivism have given us the tools with which to understand the conditions under which this might occur and the mechanisms by which it might happen. It is by effecting the spatial and temporal distribution of connections of neurons, synapses and neural networks, that the brain uses to code the world that it acts and participates in, that new forms of thoughts become possible.
- Neuroaesthetics embraces the single occurrence as a fact and as a real thing. One artist and one artists’ work can change the course of art history and cause seismic shifts that ripple throughout the strings of networks that make up the cultural system