[-empyre-] neuroaesthetics and modeling

Barbara Stafford bms6 at uchicago.edu
Fri Sep 26 07:19:02 EST 2008

just a quick thought. i am very taken by your concept of visual excess 
and demonstrating connecctions between/among unlikely forms that goes 
BEYOND information. going back to michelle's question: complex art 
works like these might give brain scientists the tools to understand 
and devise experiments that foreground the difference between 
signal/information and the creation of understanding.

my best, barbara
On Sep 24, 2008, at 11:39 PM, Paul Woodrow wrote:

> Maybe I could just say a few words about the project to which Anna 
> made reference  – I know that Alan will
> add his contribution quite soon
> I have been following the discussion from the outset. I really enjoyed 
> the overview given by Andrew and Barbara and have learned so much 
> especially the fact that there is potentially so much more to learn 
> and consider. What I find interesting is that I think about these 
> issues in a slightly different way and perhaps with a different 
> purpose in mind. I was really pleased to see that Anna used the terms 
> transform and transformative when talking about perception. It is 
> within this context that I feel more at ease in the discussion of our 
> own work. The Shape of Thought, (www.bodydegreezero.org) a short 
> summary of the work is as follows.
> The Shapes of thought is a work that visualizes EEG and other 
> bioelectrical Signals as three-dimensional forms. Monitoring the EEG 
> of a participant recalling a traumatic event and using the numbers 
> generated to change simple primitives to complex meshes generates the 
> forms. Each vertex on a primitive is assigned a point in space and 
> each is pushed and pulled by the incoming EEG data. Over very long 
> periods of time - more than 12 hours in some cases - a smooth sphere 
> or cube becomes a heavily fissured, bumpy and spiked object - a recent 
> geological record of the EEG patterns generated by the participant. At 
> prearranged intervals the form is saved into a database to allow the 
> event path to be retraced in the future. Participants were monitored 
> by EEG and EKG sensors and asked to recall traumatic events from their 
> past. Participants agreed to undergo hypnosis to aid in the 
> recollection and reliving of events in which they were deeply affected 
> by anger, fear, joy, or other primary emotions.
>  As a result of the generative method that Alan has devised the visual 
> images fabricated from this process opens up the field of aesthetic 
> experience to include non-traditional forms, which are both complex 
> and rich. These forms demonstrate visual excess, which is beyond mere 
> functional value as information, or as message The approach taken 
> creates apparent (imaginary) connections between unlikely forms e.g. 
> brain activity and natural forms. We have talked about the notion of 
> apophenia- the tendency to see connections between seemingly unrelated 
> objects and ideas and pareidolia the misperception involving 
> indeterminate stimuli which is perceived as clearly being something. 
> These types of experience seem to be at the threshold of perception. 
> It is also interesting how a multiplicity of forms or structures can 
> be generated from similar data sets. Brain activity can be expressed 
> in unconventional shapes and structures that stand on the edge between 
> the poetic and the useful. Even though the world of imaginary or 
> poetic objects seem to exist at a distance from the world of 
> practicality, the fabrication and existence of forms like these have a 
> strange power to change our perception of the world in which we live. 
> Early on in the discussion there was debate about the importance of 
> acknowledging scientific reality and the inherent problem of doing so. 
> What I find more important but probably less interesting is the mind’s 
> capacity to invent and occupy imaginary worlds-even though the data 
> acquired during the sessions described above might possibly have 
> ‘real’ and scientific value.  Something occurs when data is 
> transformed and redirected from its original intent and purpose. The 
> experience of this transformation is possibly sensed or felt by the 
> viewer.
> On 24-Sep-08, at 2:26 AM, Anna Munster wrote:
>> Hi Johannes and others,
>> I'll just respond to the excerpt from one of my posts, although I 
>> have to say you are rising very interesting and challenging questions 
>> about models, traffic and collaboration
>>> lastly,  Anna Munster refered to "non-modeling"  (what would that 
>>> be?)
>> I think what I might have meant was a kind of 'unmodeling' ie undoing 
>> the place of 'the model' as determining in a scientific or aesthetic 
>> project. Of course I don't mean to suggest we just float free of 
>> paradigms but rather that we not be onerously committed to 'a' 
>> paradigm, especially one that privileges either mental representation 
>> or brute biology as causal....I think Andrew may have something more 
>> to say here because I suspect that both he and I are interested in a 
>> notion of metamodelling (in the sense that both Gilbert Simondon, 
>> philosopher of technology and Felix Guattari use the term to denote a 
>> kind of processual modeling in which all models are subjected to 
>> destabilisation and cross-fertilisation and one lands at a kind of 
>> commitment to follow the changes and deformations rather than 'the 
>> model'...good complexity theory would be an example of this 
>> approach...)
>>> and to
>>>>> .. hearing Steve Kurtz ( from Critical Art Ensemble) saying once 
>>>>> that he wasn't the least bit interested in whether scientists and 
>>>>> artists actually had anything to offer each other's disciplines. 
>>>>> What he believed was important in science-art collaboration was 
>>>>> whether you shared a 'political' project with each other and that 
>>>>> if you did, the alliance between science and art could become very 
>>>>> powerful.>>
>>> Can you think of such political projects that would leave the 
>>> short-lived fashion of "neuroaesthetics" behind?
>> I wasn't so much thinking of leaving neuroaesthetics behind as 
>> embarking on aesthetico-scientific collaborations that do something 
>> different with neuroaesthetics - perhaps intervene into a 'politics 
>> of perception'. This means precisely to question methodology, 
>> practice and how one 'applies' one's findings...so, for example, does 
>> one deploy neuroscience in an aesthetic context to confirm the idea 
>> that we are emotionally 'hard wired' or does one deploy 
>> neuroaesthetics to suggest that  the neural basis of perception is 
>> both transformed and transformative once it is inmixed with technics, 
>> culture, other aspects of embodiment etc...
>> I think this kind of project is precisely what Paul and Alan engage 
>> with in their work 'The Shape of Thought' - which they haven't spoken 
>> about!! Another artist engaged in this kind of work is Warren Neidich 
>> and to an extent, I think Olafur Eliasson...although both seem to 
>> collaborate with transforming ideas etc in neuroscience rather than 
>> collaborate with scientists. But Paul and Alan do...
>> cheers
>> anna
>> Dr.Anna Munster
>> Senior Lecturer
>> School of Art History and Theory
>> College of Fine Arts
>> P.O. Box 259
>> Paddington
>> NSW 2021
>> 612 9385 0741 (tel)
>> 612 9385 0615(fax)
>> a.munster at unsw.edu.au
>> _______________________________________________
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