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Neurosensuality and brain art

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Neurosensuality and brain art

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Chapter Two: Neurosensuality and brain art. About the book: Drawing on New Materialism and Affect Theory, Gruber argues that the influence of relatively new neuroscience methods (EEG, MRI and fMRI) on the visual arts has not yet been fully realised. In fact, the very idea of a brain as it is seen and encountered today - or "The Brain," as Gruber calls it - remains in need of critical, wild and rebellious re-imagination. Chapter One outlines the history of the brain concept, focusing on a time before there was a thing we recognise today as a brain. Chapters two and three explore six works of brain art, sketching out Neurosensuality and Affective Realism. Chapter Four asks what else can brain art do, and what is it not doing? The final chapter reinterprets Deleuze's account of Nietzsche to reassess this thing called the brain, calling the brain object into question.
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BRAIN ART AND
NEUROSCIENCE
Neurosensuality and
Affective Realism
David R. Gruber
First published 2020
by Routledge
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© 2020 David R. Gruber
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has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the
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2
NEUROSENSUALITY AND BRAIN ART
Neurosensuality crafts an intimacy with neuroscience. The concept references
an attachment or particular pathos around the practices and outputs of the
contemporary neurosciences. It welcomes the brain scan into the house and
opens the heart to penetration. Neurosensuality resembles what Racine and
colleagues call neuro-essentialism,or the need to squeal, Iam just like
that!when hearing a new neuro-description.
1
But neurosensuality focuses
less on neuroscience outlining our personhood; it focuses more on producing
guidance and comfort through delineating the human-as-a-brain. In neuro-
sensuality, neuroscience is not cold and clinical; it is a warming blanket in
the face of psychological distress, social disturbance, and the instability of the
subject.
In brain art, neurosensuality appears attheintersectionofneuroscienceand
everyday environments, promising deeply moving revelations about the ways
that our brains relate to family troubles and personal calamities. Creatively,
neurosensuality functions as a thematic. In the three artworks explored in this
chapter, it comes into view when artists stage the material Things of neurosci-
encethe scans, scalpels, and electrodesin relation to the places where feel-
ings about everyday life are tangible, i.e. in memory boxes, blankets, and
souvenirs. These sentimental items then speak and say more about us or our
condition when viewed and understood through neurobiological discourses. In
reverse, those things set neuroscience into an ethical relationship with family
life and personal well-being. They ask questions of the neurosciences: How
is it caring? Who does it aect? Can it aim to improve both health and
well-being?
Scan 5: the brain keeps the body above the break
Philosopher Walter Stace notes two kinds of mystical experiences common to
all cultures, religions, periods, and social conditions,which he terms the
extrovertive and introvertive.
2
The extrovertive pushes out and experimental-
izes to apprehend the One or the Oneness of all in or through the multiplicity
of the world,whereas the introvertive focuses on the inner manipulation of
concepts, thoughts, sense perception, and sensuous images.
3
The dualism,
regardless of its simplicity, reveals a broad-ranging tendency: to imagine the
world (or layers of worlds) divided from us. To look inward or to reach outward
is a bifurcated image; a human must bridge a gap while living in isolation. Yet
isolation is a strange seduction; for even when we reimagine ourselves within
the world and highlight our visceral integrations and vibrating comportments
to varied and moody environments, we dream nevertheless that we will not be
lost in a muddle. That is, we intend, come hell or high water, to Be and Be
dened. We must distinguish ourselves. We aim to determine how, exactly, we
are a Thing, even if extendedor systematized or networked or in some
process of changing, slowly, if inevitably.
4
We want to know how we can t
ourselves into a much bigger picture.
Particularity triumphs repeatedly over open-endedness. Why shouldntit?
The tangible instanceshaping clay, growing vegetablesoffers the reassur-
ance that we can do something, enact some agency of change. And perhaps
we can, sometimes. But the broader world nags at the suggestion ever being
a generalizable principle.
The dynamic and diffuse technological life intensies the feeling of instability
in Being. Instantaneous regeneration of digital media and the confounding
nature of technological complexity showcase our mental limits and the impene-
trableness we sense in the world. The always ondisrupts our sleep; the
specially tailored feeds bother our securities; the constant fakes and questioning
of information sources expose the depth of our ignorance. Who knows what
information comes from where? Did an algorithm write that message? Are
those images real? Is a star crashing toward earth? The sand bar shifts.
If we are going to jump into the water, we need assurance that were swim-
ming somewhere, somewhere with an island of coconuts and sunscreen. Were
going to need loads of sunscreen. It is 90 degrees in Copenhagen today.
Nobody feels very comfortable alone out at sea. Black water swirls. We
struggle to keep the body above the break. What Sartre calls the quietism of
despairgrows louder.
5
Our existential condition cannot be conned to the
staid halls of contemplative philosophy. The moment of nervousness
cannot be ignored amid the moment to moment report. The anguish of
living in new media is not the feeling of losing an a priori existence ascribed
following after the (now dull and overplayed) philosophical rejections of
grand religious authority; rather, it is no longer having one minutesworthof
44 Neurosensuality and brain art
felt stabilization in our social and political environments.
6
We must now push
beyond the demure academic concerns about fragmentation and loss of
ground for interpretation addressed by postmodernismssocialites.
Non-linearity, unreliable narrators, and subversive plots constitute the end
of last centurys literary responses to a philosophical rejection of grand narra-
tives and dispersal of formalistic approaches deemed too reliant on universal
structures. Today, iterative ction, new media literatures of surprise, operat-
ing algorithmically beyond the control and understanding of the author, are
more tting responses to an exceedingly complex and raucous technological
milieu. Literary works by John Cayley, Daniel Howe, and Jhave Johnson offer
interactive, performative experiences whose content is dispersed across data
sets, suggesting that what burrows into our heads are not single speeches or
paradigmatic images, but a blushing rush of various media, constantly,
relentlessly changing.
7
To see those works once is to see them algorithmic-
ally generating a unique combinatory moment; no one will ever see them
the same way again. Mirroring wild social congurations and dynamic informa-
tion ows, they are visibly dismantled moment to moment, whether the viewer
likes it or not. So they push us to now pay attention to material tumult and
consider social fragmentation not only as old news
8
but as a modest and even
cute observation.
The social and political task is no longer to discover secret all-encompassing
ideological formations that dominate the masses in equal respectdid ideolo-
gies ever function so atly and with that kind of domineering unity anyway?
The task is to keep up with the formation processes, to discover the salient
agents, human or nonhuman, and try to swim. Yet we face the inability to
take responsibility for the iterative, re-combinatory composition when the
responsibility remains yet ours.
Sartre argues that a recognition that each person is not aparticularexample
of a universal conceptioncomes with the sense of complete and profound
responsibilityfor ourselves and humanity; although he overlooks just how
much religious universalizing also seeks to impose its own depth of/for human
responsibility, he points to a problem, namely, that humans feel profound
responsibilitybut also struggle to dene it in a manner tting to humanitys
divergences and multiplicity.
9
Determining a path and enacting a plan, espe-
cially at scale, sits idly on the spinning wheel of the thinking computer, subject
to refresh.Dispersal, lack of access to information systems, to processes for
storage and retrieval, and to numerous material re-integrations complicate any
responsibility; unseen actors can be blotted out at the turn of a dark satellite.
Algorithms revise. Networks reform. Hackers and security teams work behind
the scenes. Sea cables and phone towers relay innumerable signals. The air
vibrates. Governments and corporations collect, spy, and adapt. Relentless
change and emergence fashion the present as already historical. History is now
a data set whose shape is written by robots.
Neurosensuality and brain art 45
No one can escape emotional disruption: incessant alternative realities,
fake news, sudden economic breakdowns, climatic oppressions, eruptions of
eruptions. God, it really is hot today.If no man is an islandseemed
appropriate once, then no island is an islandts today. Every wondrous
and seemingly meaningful proposal, whether intervening at the ontological
or epistemological level, faces an order of magnitude of uncertainty, right
inside of daily life, greater, no, yes, than ever before.
Anxiety, a recent Independent news article declared, is societys prevailing
condition.
10
The question is not whether we can prop up an articulation of
what we are, as a people, a community, but whether we can feel secure in
any articulation. Perhaps we see something in the unpredictability of the
weather, the rapidity of news cycle, and the constant surprise of the data
stream. We see a performance of existence. We cannot help but remember
what we have been taught: existence comes before essence. Google God,
and the conditions of existence shufe around; so will we.
Here is where the brain and brain art have a voice. They shout contradictory
things at each other and then sometimes switch sides in a debate about the
future.
We, ourselves, a brain scan image announces, need not be strange simply
for being complex. We need not live with ontological anguish and anxiety.
We can nd real, workable, reliable solutions from the solid ground of our
own neurobiology. Brain art repeats the equation, but the best of it also
taunts the summation.
Putting a brain in a museum foregrounds a recurring function for the museum
space: the personal illumination. We hope that smartly framed artefacts will tell us
more about ourselves. The big white museum space becomes, in this sense, a giant
brain scanner, and especially when the brain is introduced. Attending a brain art
exhibit, the usunder scrutiny is not the vague and all-encompassing socialthat
critics banter about in the lobby when viewing paintings; in this case, the usis
framed as the realus, the scientic materiality making us and showing us to have
a common, a universal.
Thinking in juxtaposition to a painter like Vasily Kandinsky provides a crisp
contrast: he paints geometric forms with an aesthetic pleasure, which test the
limits of collective social sensibilities about art. His works revolve around abstract
questions, and they do not require that audiences look for the specicpsycho-
logical tendencies of the artist. His images do not treat the artist as an individual;
they certainly do not ask viewers to transpose the art onto the Self.
11
But brain
scans staged alongside of personal medical narratives or sculptures of brains made
with objects taken from an artists home prove quite dierent. They are uninter-
ested in formalistic play, even if the artists, like Kandinsky, remained convinced
that content could be communicated by line, color, movement and direction.
12
Brain art, again like Kandinsky, also tests our collective sensibilities about art, but
46 Neurosensuality and brain art
it authorizes us to recongure our subjectivitiesneuroscience seen in personal
domains suggests that we can (or should) apply this and be put at ease about techno-
logical capacities illuminating our secret loves and longings. Only if we are charmed
or enamored by this technical drive toward confessionalismor is it a drive toward
greater institutionalized surveillance or maybe toward a deconstruction of the
Self?will the exhibit be at all acceptable. Neurosensuality in brain art, we
might then say, composes a scienticshapeforintimacy.
The three artworks explored in this chapter compel us to (re)think how neuro-
science inuences how we view ourselves and how we imagine everyday life.
Most artworks suggest that neuroscience is exceedingly usefulfor remembrance,
for expressions of mourning, and for reections on important emotional events.
But this is but a simplistic starting point. They alsosome anywaytacitly
endorse neuro-centric and limiting perspectives, even while all of the artists, by
and large, approach questions of personhood and identity seriously, meaning in
unresolved ways, and treat people with the necessary respect. The artists under-
stand that we need means to process an emotional life. They see how we cannot
easily escape our medical, institutional structures and must, rather, work with/in
them. They recognize that biomedical tools and discourses shape how we learn of
neurological diseases and make a dierence to how we deal with problems like
devastating memory loss. Accordingly, the works discussed in this chapter
encourage a neuroscience that is more sensitive to living with a body that
must be measured, scanned, dataed, and medicalized to live.
Brain scans can change peoples feelings about themselves and redirect the
course of their lives. Brain art recognizes this. The artworks in this chapter seem
to argue that neuroscience should not ignore neuroscienceseects on the emo-
tional life. If these artworks are at all judged for placating neuro-essentialisms or
oering uncritical assessments of neurosciences power, then they achieve aboli-
tion of sin in honest endeavors and emotional attentiveness. Technicians are
reframed as sages or saints; patients become sojourners; brain researchers hold
the keys to heaven or hell. Through intimate imagery, we discover an ethical
dimension to studying the brains systems, cataloguing conditions, and diagnosing
individuals.
The works, I will also briey note, are instructive to the act of criticism.
They help critics to better account for sensual understandings and see the
world through the body. So I try to take the lesson to heartto think from
my own body. I test my emotional comfort zones and consider how the works
propose modes of living with a technical apparatus that can peer into brains. If
we decide not to be content to view brain art as a simplistic celebration of
hidden neuronal truthssitting right beneath the surface, then we must dive
into the psychological depths; we need to try to swim the heavy ocean of
human nitude washing ashore our own mortal esh. Looking at an image of
the brain oers the chance to wade into our own little mucky pond of cerebral
comprehensions. We hope to emerge more compassionate after dipping into
neuronal life.
Neurosensuality and brain art 47
Knitting a brain: Warm Glow
Red, blue, purple, yellow, and orange lines run horizontally across the visual eld
of Warm Glow, a 5X6 wool rug knitted by Marjorie Taylor.
13
In the foreground,
the same bright colors compose the bulbous shapes of brain regions pictured as
a horizontal brain slice. The pattern is familiar, dictated by the functional magnetic
resonance imaging (fMRI) machine as it scans a brain front to back. But this is no
run-of-the-mill brain. Taylor weaves the warm glow of her husband Billsbrain.
As a rug, spread out on the oor, we can walk right over Billor is it his brain?
The idea of stepping on his frontal cortex feels uncomfortable. Neuroscience, we
remember, intends to visualize Bill, or rather, to show us his brain in a picture;
stepping on the rug feels like trampling all over Bill.
Touching the rug is a modality shift that forces an emotional response. Bill
seems suddenly closer. Are we intruding? Does the brain scan show too much?
Is Bill sick? We wonder if we need to talk to Bill about his brain were he sitting
in a lounger in the living room. What a conversation piece! Hey, Bill, hows
the old brain? Got a tumor? Looks all right to me. Im no doctor, but hey, that
rug sure looks snazzy …” That would be insensitive, we remind ourselves. But
it seems unlikely that his wife would put his entire brain scan out on display if
he really confronted any serious danger. Whatever the case, we feel cognitive
dissonance stomping all over Billor is it his only brain? Were still confused.
We would probably never stretch out on this rug on the living room oor
with a cool glass of Chardonnay, bopping our heads to a Duke Ellington tune.
What if we spilled the wine?! Good news, Bill, it was a white, not that awful
Merlot! A little soda water should do the trick!
The rug forces a reorientation to the brain scan, or our idea of it. The visually
pleasing symmetrical shapes add to the eect, compelling us to look dierently,
closer to the way that we view Persian and Oriental rugs. We see the brain now
as a design, as a blend of colors, not a unied neuroscientic object. In like
manner, the fMRI scanor is it Bills brain?can no longer be a tool for med-
ical diagnosis; it transforms into a household item meant to comfort us. We can
feel good about it. We try to, at least.
The intimacy of the rugof rugs themselves, but especially of a rug taking
a brain as its subject mattersuggests that there is something truly sensual about
the fMRI process. We wonder if neuroscientists feel the same way about scanning
brains as artists do about making rugs. Do they give it such tender care? Do they
spend massive amounts of time scrutinizing over the colors and textures? We
guess that they dont.
But the rug insinuates that the scanning process is itself an experience worth
honoring. Bill was, after all, inside of the scanner. All of the secrets of his brain,
what lay at the foundations of complex mentalizations, his ideas about family and
friends and his habit of licking the back of the spoon, might well be materially
notable. We can imagine a neuroscientist gossiping in the back of the laboratory:
Hey, John, check it out. The orbital frontal cortex on that guy doesntlight
48 Neurosensuality and brain art
when he lls out the form. And the thalamus is inert. Yikes!Why not give this
neuroscientic process, this intrusion, the intimacy it deserves? Why not craft it
with the labor of hands, over many arduous days, so that it spreads out slowly
over time to cover the hardwood oors?
This touching re-mediation requests a new emotion-attuned vision. Warm
Glow oers another way to see Bill. But it is not only or even most forcefully
his brain that we see; what we see are ties to his family and the troubles that he
may face as a result of this scan. Indeed, if brain scans are visually seductive,
14
then Warm Glow asks us to be drawn in by the emotional curiosity of the cir-
cuitry, to displace the specular fascination of esh with the living, aective
embodiment of it. Touch the rugs soft fabric, Taylor seems to say, and be
seduced by materializationbut do not fetishize scientic materiality; see the
material of the home and bask in the glow of the heart.
In a literal and gurative sense, the rug places neuroscience underfoot.
Lowered from its technical throne of celebrity rock stardom, the scan becomes
a resting place for the dog or cat. Yet this is deceptive. The tension of the rug
relegated to the cold oor stirs within the hot necessity of neuroscience for Bill.
FIGURE 6 Warm Glow, Fabric MRI: Bills Brain, 2009, Marjorie Taylor.
Neurosensuality and brain art 49
The power of the rug is wondering if, in fact, Bill suers from a debilitating
neurological problem and how much this scan has actually changed his life,
where it will all lead, and whether the artist mourns in this way. Warm Glow
leaves this question of suering unanswered. All we have is the inculcation of
the scan now made to be in a place where everyday life must go on.
By inviting us to warm our feet on the glow of Bills brain scan, we start to
feel what neuroscience does for people once outside of the lab. Once picturing the
scan inside of the home of those who stare at their own brain scans and try to
make sense of them, we think how Bill must live with this artefact. We realize
that he has to deal with whatever emotional or physical consequences it repre-
sents. Why not cuddle up to it?
The personal touch glows most warmly in Warm Glow. The viewer is seduced by
the time and tenderness needed to knit the detail of the rugthe neuronal com-
plexity of ones own husbandsbrainand to knit so lovingly in those soft colors.
The rug, we imagine, more completely unites Marjorie and Bill. Bill is loved, and
we cannot help but be a witness. Through knitting or through immense amounts of
time spent caring for Bill, Marjorie gets to know every corner of Billsbrain.Every
memory tucked into every fold. Here Marjorieas the artist or as Bills wife?
quilts her own view of Billor is it his brain? Unavoidably, she quilts herself into
the representation; the work is identiable as her own. But more sensually, she may
well embed her own memories of them together into the meaning of the rug, irrev-
ocably stitching their time into the fabric of the home. By lacing together wool
fabric strips, the rug becomes a visible symbol of a life built together. Warm Glow
manifests their collective materiality and destiny.
Seen from a dierent angle, Warm Glow plods right along with traditional
femininity where quilting and knitting are domestic, utilitarian practices, and the
wifes task is to care for the home and the husband. Taylor, we are tempted to
think, spends day and night considering Bills thoughts, caring for his needs. How-
ever, Warm Glow cannot be so traditional. The artwork is not so simple as to be
about a glorious husband and a subservient wife. The work, as a craft and an unex-
pected form of brain art, carries also a kind of protest against traditionalism.
Pentney reminds us that crafts like knitting can be a feminist actstrategically
used to question old hierarchical structures.
15
Knitting has been denigrated
and staged as traditionally woman-centered activity,which, consequently,
opens possibilities for reclamation through subversive meaning associations.
Recently, knitting has been used to express a fusion of fun and politicswhile
questioning gendered practices and assumptions in eorts to revise traditional
subject positions.
16
The social and political force of knitting, in brief, works
from the expectation of its alignment with a traditional femininity, functioning
as a mode of resistance when breaking out of its traditional forms and uses.
Choosing where and what to knit does much of the political work. Beryl Tsang,
as one example, knits breast prosthetics available for women with breast cancer
17
to
provide a way for women to reconnect with their bodies through craftbut also
to call attention to the odd, sometimes funny or unconventional, choices that
50 Neurosensuality and brain art
women must make when needing to choose consumer products tailored for/
to their bodies.
18
Making fuzzy organs or knitted breasts requires interpersonal
reection on medical practices but also interrogates womens choices when forced
to re-imagine and re-engage their own bodies through prostheses, even as they
need to heal from potentially devastating disease. Making the works available in
online shopping venues and having women wear them as actual prostheses focuses
attention on the consumerism driving the industry as well as raises critical questions
about care in modes of production around womenshealth.
19
Although it is admittedly dicult to see Warm Glow as an explicitly political
project to generate the spirit of feminist goals of empowerment,
20
the work,
nevertheless, functions politically and subversively. The historical domesticity and
denigration of quilting makes the act of quilting a brain a challenge to the sciences
of Mandominated by men in white lab coats. Warm Glow, in particular, positions
quilting as a practice able, just the same as neuroscience, to generate serious reec-
tion on material structures that contribute to important life experiences.
To go yet further: Warm Glow undermines neurosciences claim over Bills
materiality. The rug presents an alternative to what Bill means. Warm Glow sug-
gests that the interior of Bills brain, like the home, cannot be captured in any
single form of material engagement. Bills brain is multiple. And Marjorie or Bill
himself may well be a better judge of Bill and what he needs. Fabric art, in this
way, protests ontological reduction and certitude. The rug suggests that rote med-
icalizations of abnormality might not be a good t for Marjorie and Bill; perhaps
they would rather stay at home cuddling by the re.
Quilting an fMRI brain scan can be seen as a revisionary act, one challenging
reigning orders of epistemological politics. If knitting is traditionally an unnoticed
and unimportant activity receiving little cultural celebration, then neuroscience is
its sizeable opposite. The juxtaposition creates a realignment and declaration of
validation. It also introduces uncertainty about who knows what and how anyone
can come to know a brainor is it Bill? We start to wonder if neuroscientists can
see Bill or whether they intentionally conate him with his brain to increase the
elds epistemological power. The big seeing-eye of neurosciencean institu-
tional spectator standing at some distance from Billseverydaylifemight as well
warm the oor, the artist seems to say. The brain scan is, in a material and sym-
bolic way, delegated to the realms of knitting as it proves quite decient to the
task that it gives itself.
An additional epistemological challenge implied by the work is rethinking the
educational value of traditionally domestic material explorations. Practices like
knitting and quilting have been ordered as old-fashionedand solitary pursuits,
not as a valued means for learning through arts in the same way as, say, painting
has been.
21
For hundreds of years, painting was used for the instruction of Biblical
texts or to teach morality tales.
22
As one might imagine, it is no exaggeration to
say that quilting stands, then, as something of a stark contrast (educationally, with
respect to supposed value) to material investigations of the brain through scanning
technologies. As a result, quilting an fMRI brain scan immediately asks audiences
Neurosensuality and brain art 51
to look again and to see quilting as another way to learnas a legitimate way to
investigate bodies. The work encourages a lesson about what to see when looking
at/through dierent materials and how new means of access shape the meanings
that can be applied to bodies.
Together, Bills brain and a scanning technology compose a form of knowledge,
but considering how we must think about Bills brain anew when quilting it, we
might entertain the notion that material structures integrate ontologically. That is to
say, neuroscience, quite literally, makes Bills brain into a certain kind, just as Mar-
jorie does. But the material practices of quilting, despite following the aesthetic
orders of neuro-imaging, hold the advantage of time; arguably, then, her mode of
engagement expands reection. As a means of learning about a brain, quiltings long
struggle toward completionwith visits to fabric shops, with long strands of yarn
cut to sizecompel close looking over longer periods of time and make associations
that push us to ruminate on his life as a person while we map out the structures of
his brain. The work here asks if neuroscientists ever look long enough or if the
neurosurgeon gave Bill enough consideration.
Although the rug can be understood as an aront to the power of neuroscience to
be the funnel point for knowing more about ourselves, to Taylor, as quilter and yarn
artist, what may well matter most is the impact of the aesthetic of Billsbrain,not
really what any neuroscientist sees. The story is an old one. What the artist cares
about is the art, or the aesthetic pursuit. As Taylor puts it, Icouldnthelpbutlook
at them with the eye of a quilter Ithoughtthatthefoldsofthecerebralcortex
would be great in velvet.
23
That is to say, when seeing the brain scan, the quilter or
the artist or the wifewhichever should be foregrounded heredoes not see Bill at
all. For her, the scan does not need to be essentialized, i.e. to be Bill.The scan
could, rather, be a sensual pursuit for its own sake and a colorful expression. And the
scan does, in fact, appear immediately aesthetic. It strikes the viewer as a thing whose
starting point is a pleasing aect or the embodied experience of fabric.
The aesthetic interest calls attention to other potentials in Warm Glow. Its textures
and threads highlight the selections that go into a brain scan. The neuroscientic
scan was, after all, made in machines and woven in algorithmic digitality then
forged through image contrasts and sharpening tools and printed in bright high-
resolution. Whether the red blobs on fMRI scans are inherently seductive or are by
now mundane visual objects, Warm Glow reminds the viewer that they are con-
structions with designers and that they can be beautiful. We see once more (or for
the rst time) the choices and how the images are framed, enhanced, tailored for
a specic purpose. In fact, because the processes used to compose the rug cannot go
unrecognized in the creative artefactits every weave and fold are inevitably open
to investigationbrain scans, in turn, come a little more to surface. The choices are
not so evident in the computational and clinical manifestations of a scan; there, the
brain scan hides from us. Warm Glow reminds us of this fact.
Ultimately, Warm Glow punctuates the plurality of realities that can come into
view when materiality is engaged dierently.
24
The glow, so to speak, of an fMRI
brain scan is not singular, just as the rug is not. In meshing purple, red, and yellow
52 Neurosensuality and brain art
yarn, Taylor constructs numerous glows: the warmth of Bills eyes, the household
replace, the red blobs on the scan, the light emanating from an image reader in
adoctorsoce, not to mention a new relation to Bill. The outcome is an artwork
suggesting that what makes a brain warm”—a word attending to visual sensation as
much as tactility and emotional characterdepends on the material means and
relations drawn to it. The hot spots on an fMRI scan light up the brain in one way,
but the quilt provides another kind of glow. In the juxtaposition, we comprehend
dierent sides of the brainor is it Bill? It could be us that glows.
The artwork is multiple. A brain scan rug can warm us up to the idea that we
can know more about our personal lives with a scan. Or, the work might ask
whether neuroscience is the best place to learn about Bill and assess his personality.
Or, it might compel us to think about the discourses of neuroscience as happening
in the home. Or, it might show us how memories of our medical experiences are
materially woven in brains, which are not only represented by neuroscience prac-
tices and then shown back to us with clinical eciency, but ever recomposed
through lived engagements. Warm Glow is neurosensuality.
Probing a brain: A-Me: Augmented Memories
Nobody likes a brain surgery. Most of us would go to great lengths to avoid it.
A metallic probe piercing the skull, entering the soft, wet tissue of the brain,
and poking around a bit, is cringeworthy. We pray that we never have to lie
under the bright uorescents inside of the sickly hospital room while a surgeon
res up the circular saw, then jabs a scalpel into the parietal lobe.
Surgical stations with their cleaning uid smells and unnerving blandness are not
ideal settings for picnic table stories about mom and pop falling in love. These are
not places where we drum up sentimentality about the good old days. In fact, the
very question of whether we can be in the mood to ruminate on our lives and share
memories with others is an environmental one. We require the right place
and time. A few glasses of wine, perhaps. A glorious sunset. A friendly face. Were
sensitive creatures. Asking audiences to do this heavy emotional lifting while also
performing a brain surgery would be an odd thing indeed. But that is exactly what
Jordi Puig, Annamaria Carusi, Alvaro Cassinelli, Philippe Pinel, and Aud Sissel
Heol do with their collaborative brain artwork, A-Me: Augmented Memories.
25
The trick of the work is in making audiences feel comfortable. Attention to atmos-
pheres is required. The artists, thus, restage the surgical apparatus in the comfort of
adarkenedmuseumspace,amongtheenclosedintimacyofblackcurtains.Supported
by calming music and following a nice glass of wine in the museum lobby, they ask
audiences to interact with surgical tools in their own time, with some privacy. The
activity is framed as discovering other peoplescherishedmemories.
Audience participants, rst, pick up a wireless probe and set it on a dummys
head; crucially, they do not insert the probe into the head or jam it through
a skull. So the work is, in this detail, already distanced from the actual experience
of the surgical bay. Even so, an audience participant needs to imagine conducting
Neurosensuality and brain art 53
surgery and must simultaneously watch a screen with a VR display showing an
fMRI scan of a brain, staged as a real-life view of a patient being probed in real
time. As the probe moves over the many regions of the brain, the display changes
accordingly. Viewers encounter red dots that have been placed in the brain by past
participants. The dots can be clicked to open sound les containing memories.
The user listens. A story of grandpas work clothes. A snippet about falling in love.
Participants, thusly enamored, are encouraged to nd a special, secret place in the
brain to leave their own memory.
26
The artists describe A-Me as a project exploring the ambiguity between the pos-
sibility of accurately locating places in the brain, and the uncertainty of dening
aplace in the world (or the brain) for a mnemonic experience.
27
Thus, the work
highlights a debate in the neurosciences about the delimitation of memory to the
brain and plays with a tension about the mindbrain relation. Namely, the project
treats memories as location-basedeven while recognizing in the act being per-
formed that remembering is an active, exploratory process.
28
Although memories
might require the ring of neurons, some memories also need external stimuli to be
experienced. Asking participants to inject memories into a brain explores creatively
how environments alter or bring about memories; the project experiments with
what participants remember in this odd space and what they choose to add to the
collective memory palacethat A-Me becomes. Finding memories or placing them
in the brain, on one hand, advocates the mapping practices of the cognitive neuro-
sciences; yet, on the other hand, the artists initiate an ironical performance by
asking audiences to use the exhibit to conjure memories, compelling interrogation
of the idea that locating memories in esh alone is possible.
Positioning participants as medical practitioners, surgeons, or neuroscientists,
A-Me also broaches the uncomfortable psychological compulsion to probe other
minds. To see past the curtain. To live inside another. To access the most intim-
ate. Being a bodily transgression, a literal probing of the brain with a metallic
tool, the artwork raises ethical questions about a broader human desire that may
be rootedas I note later in this bookin a craving to expose onesinnerSelf,
that is, to be fully seen, which can sometimes manifest as the need or compulsion
to see others completely naked.
29
Tellingly, there is no indication in A-Me that the brain on the VR screen has
given its consent. No clear storyline for the brain has been laid out before the
participant. Outside of a dummy head disconnected from its own body, there is
no identiable person by which to connect to this brain. The memories are, thus,
sitting idly inside of meat, extracted from an emotionally vibrant life, say, from
a lovely suburban town in Northern California where the neighbors get together
once a month for dinner and share details about their children and travel adven-
tures. No, this specular human head, this esh, in being so disconnected, is open
to abuse. Extracted from ethical limitations, the brain-body is completely under
the participants scalpel. We have to embrace an optical eroticism as well as
a murderous opportunity. No social sphere with community norms is inscribed as
governing here. The boundaries are wide open. The tools have been put right
54 Neurosensuality and brain art
into the visitors hands, whomever those visitors may be. The power of erasure.
Participants are encouraged to alter the mind foreverto impose their own will,
inject their own memories. A-Me asks for a kind of mental colonization.
The absence of any obvious personhood for the patient within the surgical
museum experience seems inherently a critique of neuroscience in practice. The
eect is strengthened by the technical apparatus. In working through the real
equipment of neurosurgical units, an ethical interrogation is forged regarding the
use and development of these tools, which are presumably made to erase or
modify brain tissue. We begin to wonder how much leeway the surgeons have
been given, if they have authorization, and how much, or how they have
obtained it. We wonder if the surgeons know what, exactly, they erase. Have
they such comprehensive knowledge? Have they considered the lifelong eects
on the person? What if they slip up?
The immediacy of the VR brain does not show the viewer any of the down-
stream eects of brain alterations, but it, nevertheless, allows the viewer to aimlessly
wander around the brain to look for glowing red dots. In this way, the technical
visuality of A-Me helps the participants to understand the surprising way that Brain
atlases are being usedwithin a methodology where participants are asked to per-
form concrete tasks in order to stimulate neurons absent any broader theory about
brain functionality; this is a neuroscienticblack-box approachto cracking
underlying processes. We might then ask what it can mean to adopt the screens
limitationsto see in such vague termswithout an underlying theory. What the
hell are we doing? In poking a red dot or adding another, we have no clue as to
what kind of brain we make and what else might change forever.
The idea of injecting new and foreign memories stirs un-comfortability. At
least we think it should, or hope it will. (What if that were us laying on that operating
table? Good thing we are the surgeons. Phew!) In probing the brain and adding mem-
ories, the inculcation of our own life experience, so imposed, alters the patient for
good or for ill. We might think about all of those people who will follow now
after us, after we nish dissecting and playing God, all those who will hear our
memories. Will they be wowed, or will ours be mundane, or worst, will we be
lost in muddy combination with the others swirling there? Or will the memories
inherently change when materialized this new way? Perhaps we never considered
that cutting them into an audio le would make them foreign. These answers we
cannot know except from the perspective of those following after usor more
pertinently from the perspective of the person (or dummy non-person) whose
brain we have just invaded.
Thinking about the value of our memories compels us to eventually look down;
despite the dummy head, we imagine that we see a person on the table subject to
our blade. We feel for them. Maybe. Or, we feel that we are somehow making this
person better. Can we think so highly of own memory experiences? It is possible
isnt it?that my memories, interjected, do not mesh nicely, but corrupt.
As might already be evident, A-Me is not only a project about neuroscience but
about self-interrogation. The work tests our limits. It probes our own gull as well as
Neurosensuality and brain art 55
our arrogance. It asks whether we can see ourselves and/or neuroscience, in some
way, enacting a Will to Power. As a psychological hypothesis,the Nietzschean
Will to Power presents for consideration Beings fundamentally composed of cen-
ters of power exerting force against one another.
30
The Modern anxiety about the
uproar of the classes, the technological and economic fragility after the global fall of
monarchies, which the Nietzschean concept captures, is herein extended out to
neuroscience. In accordance with the Nietzschean reading, A-Me suggests that our
contemporary high-tech digital means do not escape rst-order impulses. The
human dance is the same. Dare we so smugly pronounce ourselves as far beyond
the old impulses of Modernity and living now in the future?
In the cozy corner environment of A-Me, our happy, cherished life memories are
dislocated from their bed of comfort and called forth as a means to exercise our
own Will to Power. Or, if one prefers to think closer-to-the-ground, then A-Me
might be said to ask us to consider our lives as a pragmatic solution to the problems
of another, as a biopower.
31
A-Me can be interpreted as strategic, reasoned, gov-
erned, legitimated tyranny over another body, an exercise of sovereign power
and the power over death.
32
Nietzsches organism might, in expressing its Will,
rage against the relations of things and impose itself, desiring to exploit the limita-
tions of others, but Foucaultsbiopowernds the necessary means.
However, no one believes in pure evil anymore. Bad intentions are not presup-
posed. And any nefarious mustache-twirling characters with dark psychological
compulsions to eat brains seem unlikely. Thus, we suppose that A-Me is rightly
framed around the hype and excitement of the advances of the brain sciences, and
the underlying character of a Will to Power being played out as a biopower can
lose some of its terrible bully tonality. Enacted as a contemporary, interdisciplinary
hybrid project where neuroscience is integrated into art practice, the force of
opposition stirring within a strange situation where the museum-goer exerts con-
trol over an imagined real-life brain of another person dissipates a little. The
threat fades away. Some of the underlying compulsion to expose ones own mind
while gazing at the helpless Other might also drift o, unnoticed. Sharing a night
out to the museum with friends, sipping a house Merlot, chomping a prosciutto-
wrapped olive takes the edge o. But should the edge be sharpened?
Some of the aesthetic choices can make a discernible dierence to how we feel
about the work. The cartoonish dummy head appears without any human distinc-
tion. No eyes or eyebrows, void of a facial expression. Similarly, the VR display
oers a attened 2D representation. These details distance any nefarious compul-
sions; the act becomes emotionally attened. To truly realize the nastiness that can
be our own impulses, we probably need much more dimensionality. We need to
confront the Other face-to-face to best comprehend the force of our impositions.
But standing over a dummy head, staring at a VR screen, no such immediacy or
conict occurs. We can proceed without delay and with a self-assured condence
in the direction that we, ourselves, want to take this brain.
As a reection on neuroscience and what it does, A-Me does not think neuro-
science kind. As a science that sees, trains, and practices in specic ways with
56 Neurosensuality and brain art
admittedly crude tools, often absent a coherent overarching theory, as the artists
duly point out, A-Me positions ignorance and opposition at the heart of the
endeavor to learn about brains. Something wildly undisciplined, more raucously
practiced is forwarded. But likewise, something more personal, much closer to the
everyday life of the person that eats too much, runs sluggishly, and sweats with
bouts of erratic nervousness is implied as being needed to assure ourselves of eth-
ical relations amid actions gaged in microscopic percentages through computer
algorithms and metallic probes.
A-Me cannot be solely characterized as a performance of a Will to Power. The
work, more immediately, foregrounds inner sentimentality about the museum-
goers own life and the memories held dear and worth sharing. In that sense, it is
directed inward and toward the meaningfulness of having memories in the rst
place. Ruminating on ones treasured moments underscores the devastating
impacts that brain diseases have and the inherent good of surgical interventions
aiming to salvage whatever is left. A-Me, likewise, fosters self-wonder about
a human body where alterations to specicregionsmakeadierence to how we
think of ourselves and what we can remember. Here is where we feel the most
productive tension: an unresolvable opposition between imposing our own Will
and rescuing that of another. Of being rescuer and being destroyer.
Once imagined as if having the unsurveilled power to reshape minds (in pretend-
ing that we are working with a real brain without oversight), we must position our-
selves as either heroes or villains. But how to choose? On the one hand, we can
seem delusional or overly condent in our technical capacities, or simply unaware
of what another person will need or nd useful. We might initiate a change that
fundamentally reshapes a life and not for the better. On the other hand, we have an
opportunity to add to another persons experiences and participate in a much larger
neuroscientic initiative: to map a universalizable brain holding so damn delicately
neuronal connections propping up a normallife. We simply do not know what
our probing, our insertion, our control will do in the end. We are forced to move
forward. We answer the call of the surgeon. We must occupy that confounding
space in A-Me even while the artwork refuses an easy answer to the dilemmas
that it poses.
We can now wonder if Spinoza was way o-track when he said, when a man
is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master, but hes at the mercy of
fortune.
33
Yet without the emotionscare, fear, anger, compassionwe could
not consider what we do so thoroughly nor could we appropriately regard our
actions in a project like A-Me. Perhaps Spinoza redeems himself in stating,
Desire is the actual essence of man.
34
No, on second thought, he merely splits
the human in halfessence on the left, and logical masteron the right. The
damage of this kind of reasonemotion dualism is quite evident in A-Me. So we
prefer, instead, the full eect of emotion on structures of thought. The embrace
of the irrational desire and the passionate outburst spurs us to invent new thoughts
more rationalthan that which ow from any disembodied head, which is, lest
we forget, an image of violence.
Neurosensuality and brain art 57
Scan 6: the brain is magic
The brain organ as the contemporary arbitrator of the human (exposing our
universal impulses, drives, limits, and capacities) becomes so very strange
when feeling the weight of the thing in your hands. It is quite small. And
the exterior of this wrinkled, grey organ is ugly, really. The brains outer aes-
thetics do little to convince us that it is the Main Thing responsible for our
vibrant experience. This is it? But when illuminated with magnetic reson-
ance, colored in bright red and green, made to sparkle from the inside out
like electric diamonds, the seduction of the organ returns. The magic is
back. The idea of there being One denable able to explain us, able to rule
us all, feels possible again.
35
But what kind of magic is the brain? Traditional magic might be dened as
a set of practices by which one seeks to engage directly with external agents
(including human, animal, and supernatural agents).
36
The typical, and skep-
tical, view on magic proceeds as follows: gullible people displace their anxieties
onto those with greater condence, i.e. magicians, who may be living under
self-delusion about the scope of their inuence on the environment; magicians
purport to illuminate hidden connections and thus persuade. The sharing and
conrmation repeat, proving a trick to be real, perpetuating specicbeliefs,
which congeal over time into communal rituals wherein many accept that
external agents are, in fact, altered by the actions of a magician. In this schema,
the community eventually demands conformityto increase a felt spirit of
power.
37
Magic at this stage invests in the psyche. It is a Becoming. The
magician psychologically unies the community and attunes to them, serving
their needs.
Vegas magicmakes for a good contrast. In Vegas, the skeptical mind with-
draws from the scene for the purposes of the entertainment. The paranormal of
David Coppereld, for example, explodes in light and smoke, coming alive for
us within the suspension of disbelief. Coppereld visually stuns, excites awe,
but yields no practical result for the audience, outside of a good night out to
impress a date. The world seems altered, but only for a moment; the magic is
never more than a trick. The performance remains communal, but the manipu-
lations are technical, not to be too personal, too injurious, or too serious. The
trick does not last nor permeate the psyche nor crawl into the core of what
holds a community together. Compared to religious and cultic magicians, Cop-
pereld is an abomination, out for prestige, not a dedicated servant resolving
community problems through practiced exploration of Other Worlds. The
Vegas magician is a performance artist subject to no accusation.
Here we can recall two dening features of magic: the exposure of the
hidden and the expectation of control, of replication. The latter proves dis-
tinct from other religious acts; to replicate the act makes the imagined
other-worldliness appear suddenly real, but the constant manipulability of it
58 Neurosensuality and brain art
also has risks and affordances. The risk is that the audience sees the world as
too easy, which would expose the 1-2-3 as a trick; the affordance, however,
is that people might expect that they can control most things, at least to
some extent, and those with special skills or powers can especially. As Bailey
notes:
the magician (like the scientist) assumed that certain actions properly
performed would always produce identical results. Religion, on the
other hand, emphasized the propitiation and conciliationof higher
powers (See: Frazer, 1927, p. 48).
38
Priests might hope for certain
results, and beseech the gods for them, but they could not expect
their prayers always to be answered.
39
Magicians stand condently before faithful practitioners and the broad
understanding of the universe that they promoted.
40
In this way, the
magic precedes the magic show. It lives inside of collective imaginaries from
the human expectation of control, of replication.
41
If the brain is magic,
then it is magical out from this same formulation. Our images and expect-
ations of the brain are its own ventriloquisms. If materiality ever surprises
the neuroscientist who pursues exacting replication, then we might call the
nding a uke or a lucky accident, but we will never call it magicbecause
it was unintended, outside of the scientists powers of creation.
Following this line a little further, neuroscientists (and neuro-artists) might
also be said to practice a communal form of magic in setting out to expose
the private, secret, mysterious, and above all prohibited.
42
Probing inner
thoughts and dreams, how they are made and why, is a communal exor-
cism, which works amid a demand for conformityinside and outside the
lab, in designations of normality and abnormality, in procedure and meas-
urement. Neuroscience participates in a sort of magic making, at least in the
conceptual sense outlined by anthropologists. In so doing, neuroscientists
have a choice. They can either escape accusation by imposing rules against
critical questioning and treat interpretation of data as access to higher
(expertise) powers. Or they can operate within a zone of danger where the
magic is not behind-the-scenes and where the community has input into
the structured material arrangements that might one day demand conform-
ity to the results that will affect them. The question for us, today, is whether
we will clap and cheer for the show, be mesmerized and swept off our feet,
or whether we will demand to see behind the curtain? What kind of attune-
ment to the community will we require of this magic?
What I have proposed above is that neuroscience participates in an
ancient social function also common to magic, and when taken seriously by
the community and geared to solve problems, then it is not always out for
its own gain. We can accept this characterization if also recognizing that sci-
ence makes a concerted effort, in being science, to distinguish itself from
Neurosensuality and brain art 59
traditional magic. In fact, to escape the marvels and lore of old magic and not
have any reliance on advantageous moments,scientists became such
because they tested specic things and events as natural phenomena, partici-
pating in the development of the Enlightenment, contributing to the formation
of core scientic values, such replication.
43
But that strong distinction
between a magic and a sciencewhich needs to be made is precisely what
makes the comparison and any underlying commonalities worth teasing out.
To say that neuroscience works for people in the same way that magic
once did is to ask if neuroscience can, rst, be careful enough with its own
hype and detailed enough with its own interpretations to stand in a clear,
strong contrast to the false representations of magicians who fool gullible
suckers with concocted potions. Second, it is to ask if neuroscience can
develop in respectful communion with the deep emotional investment that
people have traditionally placed in local witch-doctors who live out, indeed
perform with their bodies, a total investment in the Other in order to help
them get through life. Can neuroscience take shape through intimacy with
the particular social, psychological, and bodily sicknesses of the community?
Can the magic inside the neurosciences be its communal spirit even when
the magic of our own brains is the expectation of control and the recurring
delusion that, we ourselves, can control more and more Things and should
discover higher powers through the use of special tools?
To say that neuroscience is magicis to recognize its ability to excite and
to create new realities for people in need, but more so, it is to offer a chal-
lengeto see if neuroscience can attend to the close spaces of our bodies
and communities. Likewise, to say that the brain is magicis to challenge
neurosciences audiences: to see if we can reverse the trickto hold the
expectation of non-repeatability and an unabashed lack of control over all the
many variables and hidden folds of the universe.
Sculpting a brain: Resonance Punctuated
When thinking back to a historical materialist tradition trying to understand the for-
mation of subjectivities through analyzing the conditions of prisons, workhouses,
and factories,
44
the entire question of whether brains can connect to sensual experi-
ence and be creatively investigated through attention to environments points to
one answer: yes, of course.There is no hard and fast division of external material
realities from internal emotional ones, which are also, lest we forget, unavoidably
material. The sniof a tire shop jogs a memory. The feel of a warm teacup relaxes
us. The old wooden spoon given to us by our great grandmother is the image that
we conjure when thinking of home. Sensuality is of the senses. If the mind is inex-
tricably tied to the brain, then the brain is composed of the external world.
Laura Jacobsons sculptures remind us of thisthe deep absorption of material-
ity in daily life. In Resonance Punctuated, Jacobson sculpts a series of brains from
60 Neurosensuality and brain art
clay, cobbling together the regions and sub-segments by pressing in steel bits, wood
casings, auto-parts, and computer circuit boards. Working from the visual designs
evident in real fMRI brain scans, she highlights how everyday industrial settings
alter neurobiology. Her sculptures open pondering about how people are shaped
psychologically by things like tools and chemicals, little machinic routines. Accord-
ingly, in Jacobsons art, how brain structures develop or what they might mean is
not a domain exclusive to biology and not something solely t for laboratory
exploration; semiotic analysis need not take a back seat to neurons nor must social
encounters and their emotional acupunctures be made irrelevant to the brains
wiredconnections. Such divides are erased in these tactile conglomerations.
For Jacobson, touching machines is touching the brain. The hammer and dust
of the coal mine are part of our subjectivities. Yet, there is no shying away from
the visual tension across the soft plasticity of some of the materials Jacobson
incorporates, such the clay that she squishes into and around the hard rigidity of
FIGURE 7 Resonance Punctuated 2017, ceramic mounted on wood 44 x 36 x 1.5in,
Laura Jacobson, by permission.
Neurosensuality and brain art 61
other materials, like wire mesh. Made in this way, the brains, as artworks, imply
that we are plastic to some extent, at some base level, but ordered with unavoid-
able determination by unsympathetic motors. It is dicult to view these sculptures
and not walk away believing that we are, on some level, stuck; on another level,
we see that we are deeply changed by what we do and the kinds of encounters
that we havethe greasy, scrabbly work forced upon us by structural dependen-
cieswhich are pressed into us like clay.
Perhaps to strengthen the deterministic, Jacobson res the clay. The brains are
solidied into a ceramic piece. The representation is hard. The gesture can be
metaphorical: brains, over time, turn solid like pots, ready to use, shaped to
a purpose, but easy to break in half.
Or maybe Jacobson implies that brains, once captured by the scanner, can be
organized on a shelf like pots. We can be arranged from normal to abnormal in
a nice row. That is, if neuroscience is a kind of scientic hardeningmaking
a picture of our mentalizing structure and, by correlation, of who we are and
what we can dothen Resonance Punctuated declares that the external forces
vibrating our Being (the Resonance)isPunctuated(or punctured) not only
by tough labor conditions but by neuroscience itself. And maybe shesonto
something: we can hardenour minds with neuroscience.
As sociologist Joseph Dumit argues, many people adopt neuroscience categories
to describe and understand the Self.
45
Jacobsons sculptures remind us of this.
However, there is another way to see the function of neuroscience: like molding
clay, neuroscience takes the shape of a bowl, meaning that neuroscience feeds us;
it is comfort food. We hold its outputs, and the shape provides comfort within
the production of concrete representations with an obvious purpose.
This is where Jacobsons work also critiques neuroscience just as much as cele-
brates it. In fact, looking at her sculptures, we might be compelled to say that
neuroscience shows us nothing about our brains that we do not already know from
folk knowledge and common experience. Grandpa who worked for fty years as
a farmer thinks in terms of fertilizers, tractors, and seasons; he rises from bed auto-
matically with the sun and cares not much for politics. Grandma who has for fty
years managed an oce thinks about life in terms of ledgers, copy machines, and
invoices; she sets her alarm clock, just to be safe, and is highly skilled at negotiation.
The structures of mind have conceptual resources built with the lived environment.
Neuroscience will not do much more than indicate, sometimes more precisely and
sometimes less, where those areas of the brain are located.
Looking at Resonance Punctuated we can also be more positive about neurosci-
ences potentials. We can see the extent of our plasticity, how much clay we
have left, and where the gears have started to rust. Neuroscience bears witness
to materialityit is a realist pursuit, after alleven if theres always another
manifestation lingering in the scaolding, always a hidden dimension. But the
sculptures do seem to make us wonder if those steel bits can be yanked out of
the red pot and if more clay can be added. Can we change, or does a lifetime
in the factory prove intractable? Maybe neuroscientists can be our mechanics?
62 Neurosensuality and brain art
Laid out as a collection, the brains look strikingly similar in their tonality and
construction but quite dierent in the conguration of the details. Some are packed
with metallic circuit boards, others lined with wood and tiny gears. From top to
bottom, the artist foregrounds how we are shaped by what we do, implying an
interiorexterior nature of brains. Perhaps we are individualized, little bit by little
bit. That is to argue that the dominance of industrial and technological gear across
all of the brain sculptures foregrounds the external inuences on how we think.
Whatever plasticity was once possible nds denition in our exterior activities; we
remember our reliance on motorization and automation and computation and then,
broadly, we see our technological co-evolution.
In some ways, the artwork is a worry about technology. Even if the clay high-
lights a connection to earth, the mucky stuis hidden and trapped in-between
grinding metal. The Biblical story of God breathing life into the dust of the
ground to create humanity looks suocated by an obsession with technological
progress.
46
The tight circumference of Jacobsons ceramic skull is overloaded. The
pursuit of god-like capacities through technological extensions transform the mud
of brains into machines. Resonance Punctuated visualizes an old Frankenstein story.
The original clay of the brain cannot at this juncture, we imagine looking at these
works, escape its ruddy techno-congurations. The brain is too jammed up and
scarred with human cyber trash. We are machinic now.
But reading the sculptures either as the image of the concretizing inuences of
neuroscience or as a picture of a human unable to be un-technologized is a narrow
view. The neuroscience scans used to guide the making of these sculptures do not
need to reference the specic neuroscience experiment; the brain pictured here
might be broadened out to refer conceptually to a brain made over extremely long
periods of time out in the world. If the sculpture is explicitly referential and, in that
sense, a realist depiction, then the object referenced is not merely a scan. It is
a whole scope of environmental inuences and evolutionary adaptations. The brain
takes shape from an evolutionary history much older than any neuroscience image.
The brain is only as automated as automation, as regulated as regulation, as hierarch-
ical as the oldest hierarchical structures. The impulses of humanity, its time-tested
associations and social congurations, its sensations and journeys, its food sources
and animal allegiances, likely make a much bigger dierence than the contemporary
life of the video gamer or the discourses of digital dominance or the neuro-
grandiosity now pervading pop culture magazines. Who is to blame, then, for
a brain that thinks like a machine?
The brain image that we see is not only referencing a particular brain scan, an
exterior world of working environments, or an ecological deep history, but it is
also recalling a history of art concerned with the corruptive and persuasive inu-
ence of mass-produced materials. Jacobsons work, perhaps necessarily, harkens
back to 1960s Nouveau Réalisme. A troupe of French artists, including Arman
and Jean Tinguely, set out to prove the death of arts preciousness by consider-
ing reality their primary mediumand combining found and discarded objects.
47
Trash works satirized the clean, staid, careful comportments of high art just as
Neurosensuality and brain art 63
much as consumerism and overproduction.
48
The attempt to bring back down
to earth the elevated and idealized of the neurosciences seems to recuperate the
strategy.
Jacobsonsworkoers something like a secret history of a brain without looking
directly at brains themselves, i.e. without being obsessed with esh and neurons as
such. The brain is, instead, what it emerges out of, and in this way, the artworks t
the emphasis on the everyday real dening the Nouveau Réalisme movement. The
rst manifesto of the Nouveau Réalisme movement states, If one succeeds at
reintegrating oneself with the real, one achieves transcendence, which is emotion,
sentiment, and nally poetry.
49
In contrast to a neuroscientictranscendence
pursuing a smarter and more agile brain through neuronal reorganizations and
neuro-pharmaceutical adaptations, Nouveau Réalismesengagementwithreal
materiality works not on the level of intellectual heights but of emotional depths
artists like Arman seek an emotional transcendence, i.e. making use of old things to
separate from the needs and pulls of consumer delights. So there is an inherent ten-
sion between the bodysfeelingsaboutmaterialsandthecapacitiesofthematerial
itself, how Things tug at bodies to live and act dierently.
Believing that creative display of an industrial realcan jar the interior seems
atting way to understand Jacobsons sculptures, precisely because she crafts an
image of the neurobiological realwith objects normally thought to be exterior
to it. And the eect is similar: we gain some emotional distance from the neuro-
science lab; we see in her sculpture a kind of transcendence about how brains
function (or take shape and shape us). And we can then see life as poetry, or
maybe as a terribly composed verse, bellowing out a tune all about, no, composed
of Americas industrial wasteland.
But Jacobsons brain sculptures ask another question of us, one about our
reactions: is the brain too concretized to be altered by witty art interrogations?
This is a recursive, self-implicating question. If drawing from a history of Nou-
veau Réalisme, then Jacobson likely doubts the optimism of an art enterprise
being a means to freedom. We see this when we she makes her sculptures so
hard, chunky, and tooled. Perhaps, she turns Nouveau Réalisme on its head by
oering us a sardonic critique of its fanciful aim to set people free from mass
produced consumer culture.
Indeed, staring at Resonance Punctuated, we are not condent that we can
change. The artists attention to environmental co-being pushes an index nger
into our own clayto see how exible we might still be. Like many of the best
sculptures, the shapes suggest something that we already feel deep down inside:
a world pressing in on us. Maybe we are reminded of our mobile phones. A need
for increasing alterations or the need to keep up with social media. More speed.
More eciency. We drown in fears that we are all swimming in The Shallows,
to recall Nicholas Carrsextraordinarywarningthatdigitalmediaischangingour
brains and not for the better.
50
Jacobsons sculptures can be read in this way, but
the process of change is really quite old, as old as the rst day on the jobno
much, much older, as old as the thumb on the chimpanzee. Yet we somehow do
64 Neurosensuality and brain art
not feel comforted by the fact that we have a thumb when we see brains like
Resonance Punctuated.
Look at the yellow line bisecting one brain, then the blue wave across another,
then the burnt red char, then the linear composition, then the wheely twirl of the
sprocket. Resonance Punctuated suggests that we are a mess. But a beautiful one, kind
of. We are a compacted garbage container of environmental techno-trash whose
skull can barely hold it all together. But the life that shapes it all eventually congeals
into structures and sub-structures that give us some pleasure, even if the material
agencies there take us for a ride sometimes. If Resonance Punctuated works,then
the response of the viewer is probably yeah, I cannot resist my screen for like more
than two seconds!Or, Icanthelpbutseeeverything as a movie.Or, that image
would sure look better with my new saturation lter.
The impact of Jacobsons material formsamid our knowledge of what copper
and steel edges feel likeconnect the neurosciences to our everyday experience.
And they sing a melancholy tune alongside a rising chorus about how we are all
changing, and much too fast. Resonance Punctuated in this respect provides
a necessary biopsy, an open-heart brain surgery to diagnose the clogs in our think-
ing about what we can do if we feel a need to change our brains. But what
Jacobson nds when she cracks open brains are local environmentsand theres
nothing really very scary in there at all, just the old machines that we know and
love. Thus, if we hope to change, then we must clean things up a bit; we must
talk to the bosses who decide what our everyday involves, or we must relocate to
new landscapes. But whatever we do, Jacobsons work is certainly something that
we feelan embodiment negotiated day by day, a composition of material struc-
tures where brains become car lots, warehouses, and computer stores.
Scan 7: the brain is a way forward
The social and philosophical history of liberal humanisma staging of rational-
ity as the dening factor for human Beingscaffolds the persuasive capacities
of the neurosciences. Logically outlining how humans think by mapping the
brain networks of every conceivable experience and calculating interconnec-
tions will not dampen much the notion that rationality denes us. Indeed, sci-
ences approach to an organ, pre-understood as operating from systemsand
computationsin a way that will ultimately makes sense,automatically
embraces experimental rationalizations. Adopting the regimented disciplinary
discourse might presume neuroscience is inseparable from liberal humanisms
core tenets (the superiority and independence of the human in addition to the
production of objective and unassailable truths). However, there is a surprise in
the making. The rejection of liberal humanist ideals that does not allow rational-
ity to be set free from emotive life nor logic to be independent from social
structures can also, in an unexpected kind of reversal, strengthen the epistemo-
logical position of the neurosciences and enhance the need for it.
Neurosensuality and brain art 65
A renewed investment in emergence and dynamism striving for an interdis-
ciplinary reunion of mind and matter in academic scholarship (which we can
call New Materialism)
51
allows brain images to be understood as cartogra-
phies of the unconscious and as charts of developmental emergences. That is
to say, brain images provide access to the tiniest particularities of human
Becoming. The neurosciences not only outline how we think in terms of
making judgements but also how bodies transform with the suasions of emo-
tive life, as appeals to emotional circuitry and to complex processingare
folded into the New Materialist picture. The same can be said for sense percep-
tion and unconscious awareness of environmental cues. So the neurosciences
exercise, and thus retain, high epistemological status both when liberal human-
ism reigns supreme as well as when bodies and environments are staged to
take back some agency. Whether the brain is understood as a solitary, rational
general dictating human existence or, conversely, as integrated set of co-
forming networks performing human experience in real time, we can still
approach basic questions of human life through the sciences of the brain.
Regardless of whether we privilege the interior or the exterior, the rational
or the emotive, or some blend, in thinking about the human, the brain stakes
out an unavoidable claim to the explanatory means. Recent advances only
add to the persuasive case. As LaBar notes, Emerging technologies, such as
optogenetics, permit an inquiry into brain function at unprecedented levels of
detail and sophistication.
52
The brain has never been seen in more detail
than today, and technological capabilities only improve. From epigenetics to
social neuroscience, scienticendeavorsareleadingthewaytoanew,inte-
grative understanding of the neural bases of complex disorders and mental
states. These advances in neuroscience herald a promising era for translating
basic knowledge into practical tools to improve the human condition.
53
Who could argue with the pragmatic impulse to translateneuroscience into
toolsfor living?
The utility of neuroscience has not been lost on non-expert audiences.
Rarely do I go to a dinner party and explain that I study the social effects of
neuroscience without hearing someone say something along the lines of:
Oh, I hear that superfoods are good for the brain!or Check out this
brain game on my phone! Im using it to improve my memory.As Thorn-
ton notes with some humor and some disdain, neuroscience organizes
many discourses of the body and promises radical new self-understanding.
Neuroscience is popularly positioned as an accessible body of knowledge
hyped in self-help books and applied to nearly every aspect of human life.
54
Findings then become uncritically adopted into personal vocabularies. Art-
icles such as how to know whether or not you have a normalsex drive,
55
or How your brain is affected if you skip the gym
56
help resolve everyday
problems. The language of neuroscience settles common concerns.
Extension of scienticndings into lifestyles product marketing may well be
the norm in a Capitalist society, but brain science, perhaps more than any
66 Neurosensuality and brain art
other science, gets geared up to solve a multitude of problems. And the ridicu-
lousness of many claims demonstrates just how useful it is presumed to be. This
popularity, as Thornton explains, exists because the brain is understood as the
source of literally all human thought, emotion, and behaviorand as a result,
marketers suggest that willful efforts to improve the brain will naturally lead to
superior intelligence, greater emotional stability, and improved performance in
the home, in the gym, and at the workplace.
57
A similar observation was
made by Nikolas Rose. He argues that psycho-pharmaceutical interventions are
now privileged in the West over folk remedies, lifestyle changes, or environ-
mental adjustments, and many are prone to think of psychological conditions
rst as chemical imbalances.
58
Now more than ever, beliefs and feelingsthe
love of our partners or of chocolate ice-cream or of chess or of Facebookare
set in terms provided by neuroscience and biomedical researchers. It is fairly
common to hear people talking about their brain and efforts to rewirethem-
selves, deciphering which neurons are plasticand which are static. Living
better and longer is a matter of knowing more about the brain.
The brain in neuroscience headlines leads us back to the heart: we adopt
the neuro-craze out of hope for a positive way forward through the brain.
We want self-understanding. And we also want to live with ease. We do not
want to go haphazardly along. We need to monitor how we are changing,
and we require at least some agreement around basic forms of knowledge
to do so. What can we do, then, but attend to the electrical and chemical
life of the brain? It makes no sense to ignore it.
The brain offers a way forward in an age of uncertainty. Amid a messy future
where we must breathe in over-crowded urban environments, must grow food
amongst soil toxins, must confront the consequences of trash-laden oceans,
must negotiate a terrible lack of energy resources, must swallow bloated argu-
ments from politicians, and must constantly decry fake newsstreaming
through our mobile phones, it sure would be nice to have some means to care
for strange psychologies, to settle emotional turmoil, to resolve addictions, to
monitor ugly tendencies, and to improve political decision-making. We need
a solution right close to us, some place to nd answers, some means to do
something for ourselves. We need a brain. And at the present moment, we
need a neuroscientic one at that. But this should not keep us from questioning
liberal humanist ideals nor from noting how history lingers in our practices and
how we might improve upon our approaches.
Thinking neurosensualitys New Materialism
Taylor, Puig and colleagues, as well as Jacobson present diverse artworks that, in
one way or another, investigate the overlap between neuroscience, technicity,
and sensuality. Their cross-disciplinary engagements seek closer attention to
Neurosensuality and brain art 67
inner thoughts and feelings while the materiality of each work turns the audience
outward to the earthly forces of human development. Collectively, these artists
expose the palpable tension between the agency of things and the constructed
Self, and they do so at a time when both aect and materiality arise together
to amend the semiotic obsessions of the last few decades. What, then, of neu-
rosensualitys tie to New Materialisms goal of compensating for the limitations
of post-structuralism?
Thinking about New Materialism as a broad-based eort to dismantle old discip-
linary boundaries and an attempt to unify biology and sociality, neuro-sensual brain
artas a ground-up, heart-felt attempt to enact tenets of New Materialism
discloses the immensity of the challenge. Put simply, there are at least three dicul-
ties facing New Materialisms dreams that can be also described as three risks evident
in neuro-sensual brain art.
The rst is pursuing scientic materiality by moving outside of the sciences
own circumscribed bounds of disciplinary legitimation. Neuro-sensual brain art
does this most obviously through the sentimentalization of scientic practices.
Sentimentalization puts the objectivity of science under the microscope. Yet,
performing scientic processes and bodily engagements in spaces familiar to
humanities inquirylike art galleries or theaterspresents an image of separate
domains. The sciences may appear unable to comment much on the human
processes of their own laboratories and so are left to do normal business,
unbothered. Likewise, perhaps, the humanities risks looking like it does not t
in nor into the laboratory. When the artist leaves out, or sets aside, the specic
methods and locales of the neurosciences, as in several cases examined here, the
creative representation risks appearing exterior to disciplinary boundaries and can
more easily be delegitimized. The artwork may also seem added-on after the
fact, not ever intended as part and parcel of the making of brain science. And
artwhy the hell not?can be right in on the act.
Neuro-sensual brain art may also risk implying, at least at moments, that scien-
tic activity lacks the emotional sensitivity or the ethical relations to fully consider
itself. Neurosensuality seems to gain most of its exigence from bringing a more
humanlens to the brain sciences. The artist can be too easily positioned as the
humanist hero there to save the scientist from gross disconnection and misappro-
priation. Yet, New Materialisms assertion that the humanities must adopt analyses
inclusive of nonhuman materiality seems to suggest that no individualsperspective
fully captures material events; so New Materialismsturnbacktobodies,aects,
and feelings, generally, must be attenuated with a view that ethical concerns are
also enwrapped in large networks and constrained by institutional regimes includ-
ing charts, optics, and the magnetic properties of scanners. In brief, there is
a tension between what is suggested when artists are said to be needed in neuro-
science labs and what is suggested when New Materialism foregrounds support
structures. New Materialism aims to complicate any humanistic dominion over
what humans (might, do, or could) see and feel; yet when it comes to making
68 Neurosensuality and brain art
sensual, biologically informed art, the focus on lived histories and phenomeno-
logical reection risks overwhelming the call to be a more-than-human network.
But theres a third downside as well, which is waiting to pop up like a troll
crouched on the opposite approach. Neurosensuality risks subjecting emotional
response to the strict domain of data and measurement, introducing stultifying
order, normality, and hierarchy quite unusual when a taste of the strange, of
generativity, and of multiplicity are preferred for humanistic and artistic inquiry.
The dimensions of personal experience may be squashed down by neuroscience
discourses and neuronal aesthetics. This point is more apropos, perhaps, for the
next chapter; but in any event, the artist adopts the neuroscientic lens to get
closer to the real and to touch what is experiencedbut the result may, at
times, at least, be at obedience to data over and above ironical criticism. How-
ever, neither is entirely desirable on its own.
Making art with neuroscience is a tricky aair. Over-sensualizing the scientic,
as side-eect of interdisciplinary exchange, risks sappy art and tenuous science;
under-sensualization risks downplaying the power of art to aect us and overplay-
ing the power of science to dene us. In this way, innovative brain art projects,
like many interdisciplinary hybrid New Materialist projects, confront a tough
impasse. The barrier is a historical set of circumstances governing disciplinary
action and expectation. The politics of authorization and legitimization are assert-
ive on both sides.
As a result, sciences pragmatic dedication to delineation and denition can go
completely unaltered by arts opposite inclination to open-up everything for fur-
ther exploration and emotional evaluation. Reading the brain art of this chapter,
indeed, foregrounds how the works operate outside of the appropriated domain,
even if they do push some buttons. It remains unclear if artworks that interrogate
methods or intrude on researchersrespective theoretical commitments, as Puig
and colleaguesA-Me seems to want to do, will have any long-term eect.
As of now, the inclination to restage neuroscience as meditative practice or to
use it for confessional purposes balances uncertainly between reifying and reforming
neuroscience. On the one hand, neurosensuality creates an emotional stage where
doctors and researchers discover new connections between neurology and their
patientseveryday lives. Thus, this kind of brain art helps to overcome any ten-
dency to view the brain as sheer data open to manipulation and chemical alteration
absent consequences that resonate across many bodies. On the other hand, neuro-
sensuality in brain art can leave unaddressed what neuroscience does on a broader,
longer scale to revise its interventions in lieu of patient experience. Heightened
individuality and emotionality in the works tend to prioritize the here and now,
and they also tend to centralize specic peoples identity formation. In brief, con-
tributing to emotional awareness while also addressing structural conditions without
coming oas a humanist savior or a critical jackass is a dicult charge.
Few works will be able to rouse lasting impressions while simultaneously
having the right timing and the means to thoughtfully contribute to the neuro-
sciences. The trick will not be as simple as putting the neuroscientist into the
Neurosensuality and brain art 69
artists shoes or vice versa. If neuroscience can absorb or ignore an artwork, take
its lessons to heart or laugh at its interventions, then artists probably cannot do
the same in equal measure. Artists cannot expect to bring aboard the most ser-
ious of the disciplinary regimentalists without some expression of respect for the
practice and the real of scientic materiality being inscribed. Then again, being
loved and taken seriously while being constructively lampooned is a classic rhet-
orical strategy for family members to express a desire for behavioral change. But
artists and scientists have to feel like family rst.
Notes and references
1 Eric Racine, Ofek Bar-Ilad, and Judy Illes, fMRI in the public eye,Nature Reviews
Neuroscience 6, no. 2 (2006): 159164.
2 Walter T. Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1960), 85.
3 Ibid.
4 The notion of extended mindcomes from Andy Clark. See Andy Clark, Natural
Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2003).
5 John Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, translated by Carol Macomber (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 17.
6 Ibid.
7DanielC.HoweandJohnCayley,Reading, writing, resisting: literary appropriation in
The ReadersProject,in Proceedings of the 19th International Symposium of Electronic Art,
ISEA2013. University of Sydney, Australia, 2013. Available at: http://thereadersproject.
org; Daniel Howe and Braxton A. Soderman, Generative art and the aesthetics of sur-
prise,in Leonardo Electronic Almanac 24.1 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017); Jhave
David Johnson, Rerites (poems written by neural nets),Glia.ca.Availableat:http://glia.
ca/2017/rerites/.
8 David Wills says that Nietzsche wanted the reader to understand the message God is
deadas old newsjust as Zarathustra, the lead character in NietzschesbookThus
Spoke Zarathustra, seemed to have trouble (like Nietzsche) accepting that anyone really
believed that it was true and, thus, really old news. See David Wills, Dorsality: Thinking
back through Technology and Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008),
210212. Here, accordingly, I use the phrase old newsto signal the more pressing
news that God lives as in another form, most pertinent here for the discussion in this
book in the form of a brain, as The Brain. The search for comfort is directed there.
Thus, the new newsis the news that humans are never able to abandon God, in one
form or another. But once situated today, the new news is how much a stressful new
media environment makes this old newsno longer useful news at all.
9 Sartre, Existentialism, 22.
10 Alex Williams, How anxiety became societys prevailing condition,Independent,
June 17, 2017.
11 Vasily Kandinski (18661944),Guggenheim. Available at: www.guggenheim.org/
arts-curriculum/topic/vasily-kandinsky-composition-8.
12 Daniel Robbins, Vasily Kandinski: abstraction and image,Art Journal 22, no. 3
(1963): 146.
13 Marjorie Taylor, Warm Glow, or Fabric MRI: Bills Brain,Museum of Scientically
Accurate Fabric Brain Art (2009). Available at: https://harbaugh.uoregon.edu/Brain/.
14 Deena Skolnick Wesiberg, Frank C. Keil, Joshua Goodstein, Elizabeth Rawson, and
Jeremy R. Gray, The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations,Journal of Cog-
nitive Neuroscience 20, no. 3 (2008): 470477.
70 Neurosensuality and brain art
15 Beth Ann Pentney, Feminism, activism, and knitting: are the bre arts a viable
mode for feminist political action?ThirdSpace, a Journal of Feminist Theory and Culture
8, no. 1 (2008): para. 1.
16 Ibid., paras 24.
17 Beryl Tsang, Titbits,Knitty 13, Fall issue, September 12, 2005. Available at:
http://knitty.com/ISSUEfall05/PATTbits.html.
18 Pentney, Feminism,para. 20.
19 See Leah Rumack, Cozy cleavage,The Globe and Mail, October 15, 2005. Available
at: www.theglobeandmail.com/life/cozy-cleavage/article18250809/.
20 Pentney, Feminism,para. 1.
21 For discussion of fabric arts sometimes odd and lowly status compared to other arts,
see Janneken Smucker, Paradoxical objects: quilts in American culture,Perspective
2, online (2015): paras 9 and 25. Available at: https://journals.openedition.org/per
spective/6076.
22 See Gordon D. Kaufman, Theology, the arts, and theological education,Theological
Education 31, no. 1 (1994): 1618.
23 Michael Brookes, How to knit a brain,New Scientist, December 17, 2008. Avail-
able at: www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026873-200-how-to-knit-a-brain/.
24 In this passage, I am inherently recalling a theory of Multiple Ontologies as detailed
in Science and Technology Studies. See Annemarie Mol, The Body Multiple: Ontology
in Medical Practice (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).
25 Jordi Puig, Andrew Perkis, Aud Sissel Hoel, and Alvaro Cassinelli, A-me: aug-
mented memories,SIGGRAPH Asia 2013, Hong Kong, November 1922, 2013.
26 Jordi Puig, Anamaria Carusi, Alvaro Cassinelli, Andrew Perkis, and Aud Sissel Hoel,
A-me and BrainCloud: art-science interrogations of localization in neuroscience,Leo-
nardo (2016): 69. Available at: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/110174/1/Puig_02.pdf.
27 Puig et al., A-me: augmented,1.
28 Ibid., 2.
29 See Chapter 1 of this book.
30 R. Lanier Anderson, Friedrich Nietzsche,Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(March 17, 2017): 6.1. Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nietzsche/.
31 Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, Vol. I (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 140.
32 Katia Genel, The question of biopower: Foucault and Agamben,Rethinking Marxism
18, no. 1 (2006): 44.
33 Benedictus de Spinoza, The Ethics (The Project Gutenberg Ebook, 2007), 89.
34 Ibid., 88.
35 The Lord of the Rings reference is intended. See J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the
Rings, 50th anniversary edition (New York: HarperCollins, 2004).
36 Gregory J. Wrightman, The Origins of Religion in the Paleolithic (Boulder: Rowman &
Littleeld, 2014), 121.
37 Ibid.
38 James George Frazer, The Golden Bough (New York: Macmillan, 1927), 4851.
39 Michael D. Bailey, The meanings of magic,Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft 1, no. 1
(2006): 3.
40 Ibid.
41 Ibid.
42 Ibid.
43 Steven P. Marrone, A History of Science, Magic and Belief: From Medieval to Early
Modern Europe (London: Macmillan International Higher Education, 2014), 93.
44 See James A. Aune, An historical materialist theory of rhetoric,American Communi-
cation Journal 6, no. 4 (2003): 117. Available at: http://ac-journal.org/journal/vol6/
iss4/iss4/mcmcgee/aune.pdf.
45 See Joseph Dumit, Picturing Personhood (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004),
16.
Neurosensuality and brain art 71
46 See Genesis 2:7, The Berean Study Bible. Available at: https://biblehub.com/genesis/
2-7.htm.
47 Nouveau Réalisme Nouveau Réalisme,The Art Story, para. 1. Available at: www.
theartstory.org/movement-nouveau-realisme.htm.
48 See Documents of Nouveau Réalisme collection at the Menil Collection,Niki de
Saint Phalle, March 20, 2010. Available at: http://nikidesaintphalle.org/documents-
nouveau-realist-performance-menil-collection/.
49 Ibid., para 2.
50 Nicholas Carr, The Shallows (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010).
51 See Diane Coole and Samantha Frost, New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency and Politics
(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 16.
52 Ken LeBar, Advances in neuroscience,Science Advances 3, no. 11 (2017): eaar2953.
53 Ibid.
54 Davi Johnson Thornton, Brain Culture: Neuroscience and the Popular Media (New
Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 2.
55 Sophie Borland, Is this why some women dont like to make love? Scientists discover
those with low libidos behave dierently,Mail Online, October 26, 2010.
56 Anna Lewis. Heres what happens to your brain when you take a 10 day break
from exercise,Cosmopolitan, September 1, 2016.
57 Johnson Thornton, Brain,2.
58 Nikolas Rose, Neurochemical selves,Society 41, no. 1 (2003): 46.
72 Neurosensuality and brain art
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In criticism and scholarship, the greatest emphasis on Kandinsky's work has always fallen on the early period. This is particularly true of the Murnau-Munich years just before World War I when Kandinsky made the transition from figurative, or objective, paintings to paintings where object references no longer appear. There has long existed a distinct preference for these paintings which are both visually pleasing, because of their brilliant collor and lyrical feeling, and historically exciting, because in their formal vocabulary they were almost entirely unique at that point of time. They were distinctly different from the work of most contemporary painters, even though some of those contemporaries—Delaunay, Picabia, and Kupka for instance—were also traveling the path toward abstract painting. Thus, one reason that the pre-1914 works stand out is because Kandinsky's pioneer style had not yet been absorbed into the mainstream of a rapidly developing modernism.
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According to Foucault, a transformation in the exercise of power comes to light beginning with the eighteenth century, as life itself becomes an object of concern for power. “Biopower” is the term he uses to describe the new mechanisms and tactics of power focused on life (that is to say, individual bodies and populations), distinguishing such mechanisms from those that exert their influence within the legal and political sphere of sovereign power. In Homo Sacer, Agamben takes up Foucault's analysis and reestablishes it on the very terrain that the latter had wanted to break from: the field of sovereignty. Agamben argues that sovereign power is not linked to the capacity to bear rights, but is covertly linked to a “bare life,” which is life included in the political realm by a paradoxical exclusion, exposed to the violence and the decision of sovereign power. In this text, I bring into relief the extent to which Agamben shifts the meaning and content of Foucault's notion of biopower, which he grafts onto another terrain. What is of interest is the examination of this notion of biopower when applied to sovereign power, in order to assess its relevance and fruitfulness as well as what it brings to our understanding of modernity.
fMRI in the public eye
  • Eric Racine
  • Ofek Bar-Ilad
  • Judy Illes
Eric Racine, Ofek Bar-Ilad, and Judy Illes, "fMRI in the public eye," Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6, no. 2 (2006): 159-164.