The Platform: AUSTRALIA, 2008
The Twitter: The Brain Makes Culture; Culture Makes the Brain
The Application: Art and Design
It’s a rainy afternoon in Melbourne Australia and the subject of the embodied brain finds new avenues of discussion. I am down under, here to lecture on “neuroaesthetics in art and design” at universities in Sydney and Melbourne, where the question of the ënculturated brain has come to the fore: Sitting at the Chocolate Buddha Bar, eating yummy gyoza and kingfish sashimi, I had the chance to speak with a couple who took an interest in the idea that art has a direct”, phenomenal impact on the actual neural structure of the brain. They posed the question: What affect do different cultural art forms have on the human brain? Or to ask it another way, are Australian or Chinese brains different if they are raised on a different set of visual images?
If anyone was watching the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics, one might be quick to say, the proof is in the pudding! Thousands of years evolution have clearly contributed to the neural networking that produced Chinese trapeze and firework aesthetics! But does that mean Chinese brains are structurally different than Australian brains?
Neurologists of art and neuro-aesthetes tell us that “the brain makes culture and culture makes the brain. The reciprocal feedback that takes place during the course of an artist’s education is bound to take on both neural and cultural dimensions, especially where values of light, space, color, line, scale — the fundamentals of visual composition are concerned. Likewise, the novel human experiences like watching the bedazzling opening Olympic ceremony surely affects the brain, especially if one has never seen Chinese art, Chinese film, Chinese opera, or experienced the thrilling spectacle of fire-works. Novelty, after all, is a hall-mark motif of those conditions that are ripe for changing brains. (Think of the Anti-Aging Benefits!) Newness, the “first ëncounter,” the stunning effect of unique invention –graps our ear and our eye and most assuredly our brain!
To the extent that neurologists can detect the differents in the ways in which different cultural traditions affect the human brain, is the extent to which we can begin to understand the value of culture and cultural tradition in training the brain. Let us remember that as humans, we phylogenically share the potential to grow a brain with the same structural and developmental likeness, and with the structural capacity for neuroplasticity. And as a specie, we have the capacity to grow a neural network that challenges our ethnocentric inclinations and enables us to share language, food, music, images, sport — and as my good Ozzie compadre Nick Tsoutas reminds me — love. (If you’re in Sydney, check out Nick’s latest efforts at Casula Powerhouse, entitled “Äustralian”.)“Nike Sawas, “Ätomic full of love, full of wonder”
SPACE SUIT YOGA LATE SUMMER/WINTER Neuroaesthetic TIP: Seek Novelty! Expand Your Brain!
*Travel down under (or to any “foreign” country for that matter)
*Learn a new language
*Test out your mind’s eye on a challenging piece of art
*Play Suduko during a 13 hour trip to Oz
*Surf the great oceans of the world! (For you Ozzies, compare L. A. surf to Sydney Surf; for all Northern Hemisphere folks, check out the azure blue waters of Bondi!)
From Aussieland, where the most civilized and the most ancient meet ….. may the breath be with you! And in these days of Olympic contest and glory, may all brains be inspired to make culture so that culture inspires the growth and well-being of the each and every embodied brain!
Dr. G. a.k.a. M. A. from L. A.