On December 2 – 4 I was invited to participate to “Hack The Brain – Prague Hackathon 2016”, held in Prague in the striking venue of Venuše ve Švehlovce theatre hall, both with a presentation and as a jury member. My presentation was entitled “Body and mind states as doors to emotion, narration and art”.
From the website:
«“Hack the Brain Prague Hackathon” (HBPH 2016) has the specific aim of supporting co-operation between artists and scientists in BNCI (Brain/Neural Computer Interaction) related projects. The participants will work together in multidisciplinary teams on projects which they have chosen for themselves. During three days of intensive collaborative work they will be encouraged and supported to explore the possibilities and to find novel applications of BNCI systems. We welcome applications from anyone with a neuroscientific or artistic background. It will be an opportunity for you to learn something new about art or the human brain, learn something about yourself, acquire new technical skills and approaches, and also to meet new colleagues. The hackathon’s project based approach is designed to stimulate your imagination and expand ywour horizons. Join us and contribute to the success of this hackathon!
WHO IS IT FOR
The developers, artists, researchers, coders, data miners… Basically it is for everyone interested in the human brain and its signals. It is for everybody with some skills to share, with a will to get to know new people with their own worldview, methodologies, strategies, skills and working instruments; for everyone willing to get outside of their comfort zone, participate in team work and try pinpointing the way to something …, well, to Something.
THIS YEAR TOPIC WILL BE…
Extending the Mind: New horizons for art and science
Our mission is to explore the possibilities and limitations of Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) as a mind extending tool. Where does the possibility of instant online visualization of brain activity take us as creative people? What novel aspects can it bring to our work, whether our primary interests lie in the fields of art or science? Can we create a new space in between fields, a space where we can build new understandings of human brain signals? Our hackathon’s aim is to uncover a way of deciphering these complex questions. In order to do so, we have to get together people from distinct professional fields and diverse cultural ambiences. They will share their knowledge and enthusiasm, enrich each other style of work, interconnect and collaborate – to extend our horizons.
SEE THE SUGGESTED TOPICS
To get a feel of what you could work on during the hackathon, here are several examples of projects proposed by our organizational team. If one of these projects resonates with you, please state your interest in the registration form when you apply for participation. However, there will be no limits put on your imagination, so if you would like to instigate a project of your own choice, our team will be very happy to support you.
- Reading positive and negative emotions in real time
- Quadrophonic sonification of EEG signals
- Kinetic sculpture mimicking movements of organic life forms
- Brain to Brain communication using EEG translated into sound
- Mind mirror
- Online visualisation of EEG dipoles in a 3D brain model
- Neuro Cinema»
An excerpt from my presentation:
Some time ago I was invited to have a lecture on the relationships among art and neurosciences. In their text “The Science of Art A Neurological Theory of Aesthetic Experience”, Ramachandran and Hirstein write:
«We suggest in this essay that artists either consciously or unconsciously deploy certain rules or principles (we call them laws) to titillate the visual areas of the brain. […] In this essay we try to present all (or many) of these laws together and provide a coherent biological framework, for only when they are all considered simultaneously and viewed in a biological context do they begin to make sense.»1
While David Freedberg and Vittorio Gallese wrote:
«We propose that a crucial element of esthetic response consists of the activation of embodied mechanisms encompassing the simulation of actions, emotions and corporeal sensation, and that these mechanisms are universal. This basic level of reaction to images is essential to understanding the effectiveness both of everyday images and of works of art. Historical, cultural and other contextual factors do not preclude the importance of considering the neural processes that arise in the empathetic understanding of visual artworks.»2
I think that neuroaestetics should moderate its claim of scientifically determining what is art and what is not starting from brain structures, as if art could be exactly predetermined and predeterminable. In fact a fundamental aspect of art is its social, communicative role, from the possible tautology: “Art is what a culture, a society, decide it is art.” The idea of beauty is deeply historical and social-based: for instance the beauty model of human body has changed in centuries and in art.
One more example is Baroque, which fall in disgrace and only after two centuries, in the 80s of the last century it was re-evaluated, along with the diffusion of fractals, complexity and chaos theory. Art is always defined from the social dimension, and it has mainly a social a role.
Of course it is legitimate to analyze the artworks with scientific disciplines, in order to find structures to which assign an aesthetic value. But these structures can artistically function if they are shared in the social dimension. Hence it may happen that important contemporary artworks contravene scientific laws that try to artistically steer them, like artworks which follow the dynamics of social sharing, of mass communication, or that have an extra-artistic provenance. Or, conversely, it may happen that artworks which follow the scientific rules of “artistry” do not enjoy any artistic consideration and endorsement. The social and historical dimensions of art can not be ignored.
Hence art can escape neuroaesthetics, and graphically representing it, the realms of art and of neuroaesthetics are only partially overlapping.
1 V.S. Ramachandran, William Hirstein, “The Science of Art A Neurological Theory of Aesthetic Experience”, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, No. 6-7, 1999, p. 16
2 David Freedberg, Vittorio Gallese, “Motion, emotion and empathy in esthetic experience”, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol.11, n. 5, 2007, pp.197-203