By Bradley Cruse
TRAC has invited nueroaesthetistician Samir Zeki to be a guest at this year’s conference. The Representational Art Conference is making an interesting move inviting a neuroscientist, but will it help the emerging atelier movement’s case? The field of neuroesthetics draws from the art world and analyzes the brain’s response to works. For example, Dr. Vittorio Gallese, professor of human physiology at the University of Parma has performed experiments based on the idea of mirror neurons. In this experiment he had an image of a Lucio Fontana slashed canvas displayed without any background information on the artwork, at which time he recorded the brain activity, then put up a screen to refocus the participants attention, then showed an image of vector lines in the same position as the slashes. What Gallese found was that empathy was shown in the motor cortex when the Fontana image was observed, but when the vector image was observed, there was no empathy felt. This means people feel the stroke and gesture of expressionism. The issue I have with this study is that the responses could be skewed by the tester type. For example, I am much more tech savvy than a typical person and I use programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator more frequently. It takes motor activity to make those lines too, why don’t people feel that? Although the lines may seem more cold and computerized than slashes on a canvas, if the input method to make the vectors was more commonly known, I feel the mirror neurons should respond similarly.
Anyway, my point is that neuroaesthetics will have positive and negative effects on the atelier movement. What it will do in my opinion is further split art into sects and provide more definitive results for art fundamentals. What I’m looking forward to is the idea that realist artists will be able to have their work compared to more illustrative representational art, expressionism, etc... The neural response would be interesting to see if an image, animation or piece of expressionism could evoke the same empathetic response. Even interactive art and performance could enter the conversation with more kinesthetic responses.
The previous example was one scenario of response from gesture, but because neuroscience is primarily funded for medical purposes, artists with mental disorders will become more popular in analysis. For example, an artist like Forrest Bess who ended up leaving the military because of mental issues began painting his visions and dreams would be popular because his output could shine a light on the inner workings of the human mind.
As I see involving neuroaesthetisticians into the atelier conversation as a good thing because the field of neuroaesthetics is such a young field, I would imagine the more popular things to analyze would be derived from the artists with mental abnormalities because there will likely be more funding in this area. In addition to this fact I can foresee classical paintings and sculpture being studied over contemporary works because there is more familiarity among scientists, the works have a proven historical value, even though it could be solely provenance. This scenario could be a positive thing for ateliers, however, because of the price classical works carry compared to contemporary works of similar finish. Either way, the emerging field of neuroaesthetics will provide interesting reads regarding art in the future, and that’s something to look forward to.