Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Patricia Leavy - Responses to Salzburg

Dear all,

I had SUCH a profound experience participating in our seminar. I really felt being with all of you was liking winning the golden ticket. Thank you! The possibilities and connections that opened up in my mind have forever changed the way I think and see. My sincere apologies for not joining the blog discussion sooner (although I have been creeping in and reading as much as I can). I have had nearly nonstop travel since leaving Salzburg. Lots of exciting speaking gigs I would love to tell you about as well as follow-up with several of you regarding possibilities for collaboration. For now, I’d like to share two things. Firs, an essay I was recently asked to write for The Sociological Imagination.
Social Fiction: Writing Social Science Research as Fiction by Patricia Leavy

Second, I recently did an interview for the web series “Fresh Talk with Amy Leigh Mercree.” KAL-- I thought of you in response to the first question about freedom of expression (you can just watch the first few minutes if you want to see-- I didn’t say your name per the “needing permission to quote anyone” rule, but of course you can see I was thinking of you).

Patricia Leavy 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Jennifer Crouch - Updates Since Salzburg

I've been accepted on a residency in the Arctic Circle and will be working aboard a research vessel making art in October 2016 - gives me a lot of time to make connections with any researchers in the Arctic, particularly those focused on atmospheric physics and anything to do with water. Meanwhile work at the UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging continues. Organising scientists is like herding cats, but progress on the project is going well. I'm running public engagement workshops every month with researchers developing 'experiences' aimed at the public that provide a step by step process of how scientists come to state that certain things are/are not the case. These experiences are scenarios involving problem solving, and ask the public "how do you know?" - we have yet to run focus groups with members of the public. the workshops Im running with researchers are called 'how do you know', where researchers have to explain to me how they carry out their research. Additionally I have assembled my loom (I did that on my own which I'm quite proud of) and will be weaving data over the next ten months. Website and online project archive are on their way, loom photo below.

I agree with Alina; the experience of SGS 547 has fundamentally broadened my horizons and approach to my work. You have all changed my life for the better! Some things were unresolved of course (given that the subjects of Neuroscience and Art are so huge) particularly concerning what happens to people when they leave school. We learn throughout life - of course - but I'm not confident that our agreement of the importance of Creativity in Education was applied, in any practical, sense as being something that is important throughout adulthood, in everyday life and as something that makes us happy (although some time my art makes me angry) and contributes to well being. 

Perhaps we (SGS fellows) are always being creative, thoughtful, analytical and philosophical, but this isn't something a workforce are encouraged to do. I'm worried about this. Having personally (as I'm sure many of you have) toiled away in mysery doing various jobs, desperately and anxiously fighting to afford rent and meet the costs of living, so much so that I couldn't move forward or feel free to create. Doing jobs that were so boring and degrading that i wanted to gouge my eyes out. We need to talk about work I think, and we need to talk about every day life. The banalities of everyday life were forgotten in our discussions.

Making is a process that I think can help people a great deal in everyday life. It gives people autonomy, it's empowering, provides opportunities for problem solving and self reflection. In my ideal world, everyone is encouraged to make and develop what artists call 'creative practice.' More so than they are encouraged to consume.

I can't back that up the universal benefits of creative practice  scientific at all but I think knowing how to make, understanding how rewarding and difficult it is to make clothes or plates or computers could make us more aware of ourselves, each other, economics, the product of labour and tools i.e. lathe, sewing machine or MRI scanner. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Steven Fowler - A World Without Words

I'm delighted to announce a new project: a World without Words, exploring the nature of human language, bringing together contemporary practitioners & pioneers in neuroscience and sensory aesthetics, to offer a fascinating and playful exploration of how words form our world.
Co-curated by writer & filmmaker Lotje Sodderland and artist & material engineer Thomas Duggan, a World without Words will present artworks, installations, performances, talks, discussions and readings that call into question how meaning maps into the brain over a series of events throughout 2015 & beyond, taking place in bespoke venues across London.
Across artform & discipline each event will explore that notion that while language is considered perhaps the most characteristic ability of the human species, very little is known about it. When curator Lotje Sodderland had an unprovoked brain haemorrhage, she woke to find a familiar stranger inhabiting her body, where her 'self' used to be. Unable to read, write, speak, or think coherently, she used this unique opportunity as a lens through which to explore the everyday assumptions of how we wield words to express ourselves, bringing a profoundly personal perspective to the contemporary Copernican revolution of neuroscience. A World Without Words is the latest in Lotje's body of work around visual perception and neurolinguistics, and you can read / see more about her previous work in the Guardian & in the film, My Beautiful Broken Brain.
The first event takes place at Apiary Studios May 6th 7pm - 10.00pm
458 Hackney Rd, London E2 9EG. Entrance is free.
The event will feature:
Noah Hutton & Ben Ehrlich: founders of The Beautiful Brain, a website that explores the juncture between neuroscience and art, based in New York. They will present on the theme of discontinuity in neurobiological, cultural, and linguistic systems. As well as discussing The Beautiful Brain, Noah will show a brief clip from his most recent documentary film Deep Time (SXSW 2015) and Ben will share from his research about the life and work of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, "the father of modern neuroscience."
Harry Man: will lead an artistic examination into dyslexia and its potential advantages including identifying black holes and visualized data based on research by Dr Matthew H. Schneps at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. Using gravitational wave detection data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) collaboration, Harry hopes to illustrate how dyslexia might be an advantage to those studying the origin of the universe.
Malinda J. McPherson: a neuroscientist and musician who studies the link between emotion and musical creativity. Malinda will be discussing the human ability to ascribe meaning to sound, as well as the connections between abnormal brain states and creative musical expression.
Nick Ryan: a multi award winning composer, sound designer, artist and audio specialist, widely recognised as a leading thinker on the application of emerging and future technologies to the creation and performance of sound and music.
Lotje Sodderland: artist, writer & filmmaker, who present framed artworks created after she lost the ability to communicate with words, exhibited in Apiary Studios. An excerpt from her documentary My Beautiful Broken Brain will also be screened as part of the evening's program.
a World without Words will present further events in June, August, October & December, with more details to come.
The project is generously supported by Arts Council England

Rebecca Kamen - Building New Bridges Between Art and Neuroscience

Building New Bridges Between Art and Neuroscience

It’s been extremely busy since returning from the Salzburg Seminar building new
bridges between various art and neuroscience communities. Several dialogues
seeded at the Seminar are developing into exciting collaborative projects, which
will be shared as they develop further in future blog entries.

The following are some current and upcoming art and neuroscience activities that
have occurred since returning from the Salzburg:

I have just returned from presenting a lecture on Art and Neuroscience, at the Art
Center in Sun Valley, Idaho. The lecture was in conjunction with a current art
exhibition at the Art Center titled The Brain, featuring some of my work inspired
by neuroscience. Here is a link:

Another art / neuroscience lecture will be presented in May at the Marine
Biological Lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Some other exciting news to share, Noah Hutton's and my work is featured in a
recent article title: Cerebral Reverberations in SciArt in America Magazine. Here
is a link:

Finally, early this month a NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke) Group Merit Award was received for my contribution to the current
Santiago Ramon y Cajal exhibition at National Institutes of Health. Here is the

"This group is recognized for its innovative collaboration bridging art and science
to create a gallery of original art celebrating neuroscience in the Porter
Neuroscience Research Center (PNRC). In addition to the Cajal exhibit, the
Atrium gallery includes original sculptures, by Rebecca Kamen, whose
enthusiasm and artistic vision inspired the exhibition and whose creative
sculpture graces the walls of the new PNRC…. There is great hope that the
cross-pollination within the Porter facility will encourage shifts in understanding
as radical as those introduced by Cajal, and that the artistic expression will help
scientists view their research through a new lens.”

You can find out more about the NINDS/NIH Cajal exhibition at:

Mariale Hardiman - Article from Americans for the Arts

New Reasons to Teach and Learn Through the Arts - An Article by Mariale Hardiman

Sunday, April 5, 2015

James Murray-White - Projects Since Salzburg

Dear all: article on the conference

Firstly, I'm very jealous of the upcoming meet in NY - such a lovely bunch of folk and a stimulating event might just entice me on a plane again, possibly.....

Secondly, those on FB might know I pitched an article about the conference to an online collaberative journalism site, (which is owned by the Guardian Media Group),
and got the green light, so I've a month to write up some reflections upon the experience of us all being together for that week, and probably more importantly, what has been coming out of that coming together and how we are all taking it forward in our different ways.

I'm bound by the Chatham House rules agreed on by us all, so won't go into too much detail about the drinking and the table-tennis, but I would love to include quotes from anyone who would like to reflect upon it, or to allow me to quote from any of the pieces here on the blog. I'm aiming at an upbeat feature/public engagement. Nothing technical, but curious, shining the light upon such an inspiring group of dispirate folk. Please do email me to chat about this or just to send me some thoughts.

And an update on my MEG AND ME (MEG scanner) project here in Cambridge:

So we did the final public engagement session at the Cambridge Science Festival - a sold-out session to 100 people in a lecture theatre in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge (and in the week before to my old 6th form, Hills Road, where we wowed the students with poetry & brain images): some of the results of the experiments need further analysis, and we will be able to make a further final film looking at some of this and reflecting upon the PE process. Cambridge University PE people want us to take it further and have offered to build a flashy website, and we've been invited to present it (as well as my work in dementia) at the Folkstone Festival of the Brain in a few weeks.

On top of that I'm immersed in another Wellcome Trust application on behalf on new Cambridge TV channel to make a series of 6 science documentaries about Cambridge research from the lab to the real world application, some of which will of course feature neuro's....

my best to all of you,

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Event: Rick Kemp: Play-Action-Metaphor, the Holistic Voice


Sat 11 April - Mon 13 April 9.30am, The Performance Centre, Falmouth University

Rick Kemp - Stimulus and Cascade? A response to Anna's questions

Stimulus and Cascade? A response to Anna’s questions

Hi Anna - great! Thank you for posting these very stimulating questions. Some thoughts in response to your first two, which I hope might complicate them in useful ways:

I think it’s really useful to conceive of creativity as involving the juxtaposition or merging of previously unrelated concepts, as you propose. Are you familiar with Fauconnier and Turner's theory of Conceptual Blending? If this is an accurate model, then we are able to maintain a sense of the features of source domain concepts at the same time as being aware of a new mental space that is formed which associates them. With this in mind, I think it’s useful to begin thinking of creativity in a networked or continuum sense (multi-dimensional, not linear) rather than as a binary (creating art  / receiving art). Of course, one of the challenges that I'm facing in thinking about this is the question of 'scale'  - observable behavior and its relation to brain activity.

A collaborative act of imagination
In theatre, I like to think of a successful performance as one in which audience members collaborate with performers in an act of the imagination. While audience members may appear to be passive, for the performance to be successful, they need to be active mentally and emotionally - and this engagement also leads to physical changes (heart rate, galvanic skin conductance, level of muscular tension, breathing patterns …).

'What happens next?’
Indeed, one of the precepts of performance is that we want to stimulate the audience to ask 'what happens next?’ and to provoke conjecture about this. The conclusions of this conjecture are sometimes confirmed, sometimes contradicted, sometimes modified. An effective balance between these three potential outcomes over the course of the drama is an essential ingredient of engaging the audience in the fiction - the pleasure of ‘I knew that was going to happen’ pales if it is not sometimes disrupted by 'Wow! I didn't see that coming!'

Mental initiatives in the blend
So we are seeking to stimulate active mental initiatives in audience members (narrative engagement) as well as to prompt emotional arousal.
Evidently, in one set of mental spaces the audience is aware of the 'paramount' reality of the performance space, other audience members, the biographical identities of the actors. In another set of mental spaces are the fictional environment, circumstances and personalities of the characters. The experience becomes a 'blend' of reality and fiction in which the audience members' imaginative activity takes place.

Engagement through empathy
I think you're right to point to emotional arousal as a prime pathway to ENGAGEMENT with these fictional circumstances. This principle would hold true in your airport/mother example (daily life) and also in an actor/audience member relationship. This then leads me to think of some of the strands of thought in embodied cognition, particularly those regarding mirror systems and empathy. I know that there is much debate over the nature of mirror systems ...  from a phenomenological perspective as an actor and director it is congruent with my experience that empathy can be aroused autonomically.

Behavior, categories and prototype
We get in to some deep philosophical waters when we talk about establishing authenticity in reality. In thinking about theatre, I prefer to use the term  'daily life,' instead of 'reality,' since actors' bodies are just as real when they are on stage as when they are doing their shopping. I think a big feature of establishing authenticity in both sets of circumstances is to do with perceived behaviors, and expectations of a 'normal' range of behaviors for a particular person, and for categories of people in differing environments. Emotional arousal ensues not only from visual triggers  (remembered face and associated memories) but also from movement patterns (posture, gesture, facial expressions). In this regard, I find Lakoff and Johnson's use of 'categories' and 'prototypes' helpful.  

Multiplicity of meanings
The creative 'activity' of an audience responding to a performance is indicated by the multiple interpretations that audience members can have of the same events, their varying perceptions of motivations and even outcomes. And perhaps we could say that one of the ways to distinguish between 'art' and 'entertainment' in broad terms is the potential for multiplicity of meanings in the former, and the tendency towards singular meaning in the latter...

Stimulus and cascade
So perhaps it might be useful to think of degrees of proportionality between stimulus and cascade rather than thinking of 'active' and 'passive'? Then the question might become -not only what differentiates, but also what are the commonalities.