Archive for the ‘beauty’ Category

The Neuroscience Revolution: Neural Buddhism and Proust

May 14, 2008

Well, May has rolled into town. The jacarandas are turning Los Angeles into a “purple haze” and the star jasmine buds send wafting scents of Pacific Rim sweetness into the air.

As seasons change, so does the discussion regarding neuroscience and its far reaching affects visual art, literature and religion. As all of the authors suggest, one gets the feeling that we’re clearly in the midst of revolution, with Frankensteinian fantasies that loom large. For your pleasure and curiosity, an article and books of note:

1. Today the New York Times ran an online article by David Brooks entitled “The Neural Buddhists.” Brooks ponders the limits of a materialist perspective held by 20th century scientists in light of the cognitive, existential and religious implications of neuro-plasticity. His claim? The debate between science and religion is moved into the non-reductivist territory of “neural-mysticism.” (Sadly, here again we see mysticism used as the over-arching frame for Buddhist practice — which by the way is recognized as a religious practice throughout Asian countries.)

See: OPINION | May 13, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist: The Neural Buddhists
By DAVID BROOKS
The cognitive revolution is not going to undermine faith in God — it’s going to challenge faith in the Bible.

2. Art historian Barbara Marie Stafford has published her thoughts on neuroscience and art history in her latest book ECHO OBJECTS, a frothy, in depth study of art history from a neuro-aesthetic perspective. Stafford, influenced by my colleague Warren Neidich, takes his “brain makes culture, culture makes the brain” thesis and translates its implications into a claim for the reciprocal alignment between neuroscience and the humanities.

3. SEED Magazine editor in chief Jonah Lehrer takes on the art and humanities, especially the “lit crit” crowd in his first book PROUST WAS A NEUROSCIENTIST. Lehrer, trained in neuroscience and literature, joins critical thinker Brian Massumi to claim we don’t need to know neuroscience to make or understand the mysteries of art but we sure can learn some fascinating stuff about the brain if we do so! I depart from Leher and Massumi as I’ve found, by sharing neuroscience insights with art students regarding the relations between the visual and soma-sensory cortex), light-bulbs of thinking brighten… and new perspectives about 2-d and 3-d media come about.

The question of how we study neuroscience and to what end remains before us: In an age that celebrates the autodidact and the social networking of learning, surely a little look under the hood of our own “minds” couldn’t hurt.

As far as I’m concerned, Dr. Frankenstein, feel free to enter and teach us what you’ve found!

May the Breath and the Creative Brain be with You!

Dr. G.

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TED Day 3: Recap II: What Stirs Us? Design and Imagine from the Inside Out!

March 3, 2008

For the somanauts, artists and designers logging onto this blog…

There has been much to celebrate and feel inspired by in the way of visionary ideas presented at TED and for thus of us in the arts and design, two of the best speakers on beauty and creativity gave us ever more reason to remember to create from the “inside out.” Especially after witnessing the tired march of patriarch genius artists led by (now former) Guggenheim Museum director Thomas Krens, it was a relief to hear Yves Behar and Amy Tan each speak on what sparks their idiosyncratic lives. I for one felt both Behar and Tan spoke for all artists and inventors, men AND women who can testify to the deep aesthetic satisfaction one receives by drawing from one’s own wellspring of curiosity and confusion with life on Planet Earth. Clearly these two artists understand what it means to rescue ideas and feelings from places deep inside the cells, tissues and neural connections of their body/minds.

Yves Behar, designer, TED 2008: How do we create?

For Behar and Tan, maybe it was the gift of learning how to connect the past to the present, of growing up in homes with utterly different values and aesthetics than those representing a normative, American mainstream habitat filled with emotional repression and bland, lifeless decor. Behar spoke about the childhood influence of a home made beautiful with Turkish furniture and carpets. He pointed to his playful inspection of animals, battle and love scenes that wove tales of conquest and delight. Tan, with tongue planted playfully in cheek, used quantum mechanics theory to discuss her creative process (a riff on the particle physics presentations that had been given on days prior). Pointing to neurotic family influence as one plausible theory for her literary search for “dark matter,” Tan named her narrative process as one that starts with the search for personal meaning.

Amy Tan, author, TED 2008 Day 3: How Do We Create

How refreshing it was to hear two world-class “imagineers” admit to the stuff that is often at the heart of the creative process, despite what young grad students studying po—mo, lit.crit might tell you. Sure, these two have received enough professional recognition to insure the safety of their confessions. But to speak to the importance of placing ones own values into a work of art to touch the user – that takes a perspective large enough to encompass more than one’s own narcissistic point of view. To paraphrase Behar, ‘it’s not just the value of the object that matters, it’s the values you put into the object, of designing the whole experience from the inside out.” Those of us at TED are now lucky to be touched by Behar’s vision. Look for a TEDster sporting Behar’s latest design for Jawbone – a sleek, luminescent Bluetooth prosthetic that will be the envy of every jewelry designer on the block!

Robert Lang, Origami Theorist and Artist

And speaking of creating from the inside out, origami strategist Robert Lang took the art of folding paper to a new level of high math requiring the smarts of a system’s analyst to figure out the self-assembly algorithms of the folds. Model builders rejoice! (or beware!)

May the Breath Be With You!

M. A. from L. A. a.k.a. Dr. G. blogging on TED 2008