It seems the topic of the relations between arts and neuroesthetics is earning a good success. I was invited to a public meeting on this topic in Udine, inside a four days series of events (from May 6 to 9) named “Vicino/Lontano. Identita? e differenze al tempo dei conflitti” (Near/Far. Identities and differences in the time of conflicts). The meeting – with a huge amount of people attending to the event – was moderated by Stefano Coletto, an art critic, and it was organized by the Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation in Venice. The other participant to the meeting was Nicola Canessa, a psychologist with a PhD in neurosciences.
In my intervention I showed and commented some examples of the brain interfaces’ and brain inputs’ use in art and music, from the ’60s until today, starting from Music for Solo Performer (1965) by Alvin Lucier, the famous sound piece for human brainwaves which is considered the first work in history to use brain waves to generate sound. It was composed with the assistance of physicist Edmond Dewan, and it was first performed at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, with the participation of John Cage.
After the artworks I showed some examples of brain interfaces in robotics, computers, videogames and games, and in the end I raised the topic I was particularly interested in, since some neuroscientists are trying to expand neuroesthetics to an extent able to define what art is: the social dimension of art. Indeed we shouldn’t underestimate the social dimension of art. The neuroesthetics can discover some basic elements which have an aesthetic relevance and which can affect art. But, since art is what a society decides to consider as art, there can be artworks which fall under the rules of neuroesthetics which are not considered as art, and, reciprocally, artworks which do not match the neuroesthetics’ rules are considered as art. Art and neuroesthetics are sets which surely have some overlapping areas, but they have many disjointed areas too. And I would add: luckily!
Hence I discussed two examples: the changes in the idea of masculine and feminine beauty along the centuries and the ups and downs of the Baroque. The Baroque, which ruled in the arts from the XVII Century to the half of the XVIII Century, was afterward considered as an inferior style and it knew a decadence for more than two centuries. It was finally re-enabled in the 80s of the XX Century because it seemed to anticipate some key elements of that age: the ideas of complexity, fractality, dynamics, speed, discontinuity… In fact one of the most celebrated books published in these years in Italy was Omar Calabrese’s L’età neobarocca (The Neobaroque Age), Bari, Laterza, 1987.