[-empyre-] plasticity, transformation and new media performance

Lucette Cysique lcysique at stvincents.com.au
Mon Sep 15 18:54:38 EST 2008

Thanks for the diversity of your responses.

I like the "guinea pig" approach, I think the 1st time I saw it was in Stelarc's
I like the tangential approach, maybe what you call "transformative"
I vaguely remember that there is a part of psychology called "subjective
psychology" which is based on being your own experimental subject. I learnt this
when studying in England long-time ago.. But one thing that it taught me is to be
my own subject at least once in any on my experiment or testing. I used this, to
better understand the participant's perspective and to provide a better feedback
when I do the testing. etc..

I like the idea of building a whole art project based on this approach, it is
very interesting. Sometimes it pushes the scientific practices into the absurd. I
like this as an "artistic impression". I mean when I see an art work for example
that draw from the neurosciences and pushes the interpretation of what is done to
absurdity. More often it pushes it into science fiction I believe.

I know that in astrophysics, the science fiction writers sometimes provides new
avenues of thought for the physicists.. This is how I see one of the benefit of
collaborations. It is often that when we are fully immerged into a mode of
thinking that we cannot grasp some wider implications.

The other is to question/challenge some arbitrary/political decision of the
medical corpus as "psychiatric requirement for transgender to live 
for a year as their chosen gender"..

I like the topic of psychoneuroendocrinology. I'd say it is still very much
informed by some "straight" views on the world/sexuality, but it is changing as
more queer are getting into scientific fields. I started to work on a project that
did not go through (which is common in science..), anyway, one thing that I
thought was interesting about testosterone and gender is its curvilinear
relationship to cognitive abilities (mainly visuo-spatial). In other words females
with high testosterone and males with low testosterone are better on cognitive
tests than females with low testosterone and males with high testosterone.. This
highlights the complexity of hormonal functions and its interactions with the

I like all the questions related to animals (real/virtual.. the bees example is
great as well as the dragon). I think it leads to the question of whether animals
do possess consciousness. I like Donna Haraway as well on this and I advise the
book of Temple Grandin, a American scientist who is also suffers from Autism.

I guess another experience I had in my work is attending a conference by someone
who has suffered severe traumatic brain injury (cannot remember her names -sorry)
and has now a Ph.D and is studying the subject. She is challenging the all
patient/doctor thing as well as raising the question on how much can we recuperate
from brain trauma.. etc..

Anyway, so rather than thinking only in terms of damage, sometimes, maybe we
should think on how brain plasticity is leading to potentially new
sensory/cognitive experiences (such as in virtual immersion maybe). Even in the
case of mild neurological disorder, changing gender, changing country, or living
in countries where race is conceptualised differently for example.

Another thing I like is the questions around the limitations of imaging
technologies and how Michelle is talking about this. Although I should state here
that the scientific imagers are often well aware of them and try to
standardise/improve their application prospectively (e.g.,
http://www.nbirn.net/research/bcc/index.shtm). All the famous MRI and fMRI
softwares for example are currently developing big database of brain of healthy

 It is sometimes their clinical application that are challenging. How much can
they explain about dementia for example when you consider (in the case of MRI)
that most demented individuals do not participate to MRI study because they move
too much.. Sometimes it is in these details of scientific practices that the wider
audience can be misled as well as some scientists.. I think the best example is
how much we hear about what is supposed to decrease dementia incidence. I think we
have heard anything from wine, to olive oil, anti-oxidants.. etc.. Another could
be the breast cancer issue and whether having or not having children provided
protection or not.. etc.. In some of these studies MRI outcomes measures were used
and as good as they are, they cannot replace the initial thought on the scientific
question asked, the design of the study, the type of patients that were enrolled,
the statistical methodology used. etc..

So another question is when you develop an art work, and if you work in
collaboration with scientists, how much do you discuss in details the
methodological intricacies of their work? In other words, how much you feel the
scientist is critical of his own methodological approach? Critical in a good way,
meaning approaching scientific questions with a critical spirit..


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