Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rachel Stepaniuk

Lorenz Self-Portrait

Self Portrait

Vector Goodness from Paris!

Rachel Stepaniuk: Neuroaesthetics

I find studies in neuroaesthetics to be extremely fascinating. The human brain is so complex and interesting. Why not keep studying it and see what more we can find and understand? I consider myself to be a very visual person and it’s fun to think about different areas of my brain being more active than others. However, with that said, what can we really do with what we find from such studies? Art isn’t going to change because of it, and people will still like what they like. Even if we can plot fundamental emotions on charts, it’s not going to change what we are drawn to. I don’t see why art critics would be threatened by Zeki’s work. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see how advanced knowledge of processing centers in the brain will change anything when it comes to raw human perception. I would like to know more about why Zeki thinks these studies are necessary, and what can be gained from them.


The science of the aesthetic experience. I suppose I can see how this is something that scientists as well as artists would like to understand. Especially since artists attempt to evoke particular emotions through our work, and maybe understanding the many dimensions of how the brain views a piece of artwork will allow us to further explore the interaction between the viewer and art.

I suppose this study on the universal beauty is similar to the studies on what makes beautiful faces and what humans find attractive in a mate. Wouldn’t the brain react similarly if they both provoke similar experiences? I guess I find it even more interesting to think that maybe there is a formula to creating an aesthetic experience that can be measured in degrees. However, I don’t feel its possible to truly measure beauty. Like they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I personally wouldn’t want someone telling me a piece of art has more beauty value then the next. I feel that would take away from the overall experience when viewing art. It would be like booking a hotel on and being told that I should go to this hotel rather then this one. I guess I think that something’s shouldn’t be measured and left to each individual to decide what they think is beautiful or not.

Graham - Neuroaesthetics

I think Zeki’s research is interesting enough but I don’t understand why the article suggests that this research could ever be anything more than just research. It’s so unrealistic that this would ever effect the art world, and suggesting that it could really shake things up just seems so silly. Are they one day going to set up brain scanners in every museum, to test people’s brain reactions to paintings? Or in the auction houses like Zeki suggests, to find out what people really think? That would never happen. I also feel like studies on what is aesthetically pleasing and so similar to this one have already been done. For example people with symmetrical faces with features of a certain size are considered beautiful, and are likely to stimulate certain receptors in the brain of a person viewing them. That may be science, but it will never stop people from forming their own opinions on what they like and sticking to them. Even if brain scanners were readily available, would anyone really care? When I look at a piece of art, I can decide for myself whether or not I like it, and if a scan of my brain contradicts my opinion, it wouldn’t change the way I think.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

vector portrait

Andolina - Neuroaesthetics

This was one of the most interesting articles I  have read to date.  I never would have thought famous artists  working in this way. I feel each brain sees the world as it wants to be seen, just as the famous saying "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". I am wondering if this "innate" understanding of how the brain sees the world embodies more of us than just famous artists.
Zeki also mentions how one can deceive oneself when looking at art in its context, or say falling in love. He has a very scientific way of looking at art and the brain while looking at art. The article also mentions the values of art and how we are easily persuaded.
The part that interested me the most is when Zeki talks about someone having an "an eye", and could spot a fake from a real piece of art. I had recently read a book by Malcom Gladwell that mentioned instincts and had a story based on a piece of artwork that was a fake. 
This article does seem to bring a new and different light to art and its importance, especially on a scientific level.  

Lorenz: Neuroaesthetics

This was such a fascinating article!  One of the things that I found to be of particular interest was when it mentioned how our brain actually perceives a work of art.  First we register the colors, followed by form, then motion, etc.  If you really think about it, it is color that you notice first, and which draws you in to see more.  
I also found interesting the idea that a piece of art might seem more beautiful or important if it's located in a museum with a great reputation.  The example given of Duchamp's "Fountain" is an excellent example of this.  If we didn't know that it was supposed to be important, that it was done by a famous artist, or if it was in a small gallery as opposed to a major art museum, would we be interested in it at all?  


The part of Zeki’s research I find most interesting is the experiment that explores the brain’s response to art in relation to the context in which it is viewed. Does the brain react differently to work viewed in a museum/gallery versus art displayed in the streets? Is the rate we fire neurological messages dependant on if we see the art in person versus a reproduction? These are questions I would love to see explored…
Zeki’s research shows that we can measure how the brain reacts in various speeds to particular aspects of a work of art: color, form, motion, etc. The field of neuroaesthetics is fascinating and this research will undoubtedly provide new insights into the way we experience art. However, Neuroaesthetics doesn’t provide us with the full picture. Yes, our neurological makeup impacts how we perceive art, but there are many other factors that affect our experience in equally as profound and personal ways. Our memories, past experiences, particular mood- these are all factors that shape our aesthetic experience, and things that (as far as I know) can not be measured on an MRI.


Tallsman’s article brings up some really interesting points- particularly the idea of authenticity. She notes the difference between an authentic object and an authentic experience. She claims that in this day and age, authenticity has supplanted beauty as the primary criterion of value. This is definitely true- people tend to be so caught up and concerned in the authenticity or “realness” of an object/piece of art, that they fail to recognize and appreciate it’s beauty or aesthetic appeal.
Knowing Greenways films, I didn’t really now what to expect with the project. (Did anyone else see the Pillow Book? Its crazy!) I thought that a lot more of the personal voice of the director would be present, and I was pleased to see that it wasn’t! After watching the video, I became kind of fascinated with this piece and while I can see how some people might be opposed to altering such a monumental work of art, I personally found it to be both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally engaging. To my pleasant surprise, the projections seemed quite natural and harmonious when combined with the original work.

Clements: Neuroaesthetics Article Response

I loved this article. I have always been fascinated by the connections between art and science; this seems to be a true blend of the two. Zenki's research about the connection between visual appeal aka "beauty" and it's correlation to brain impulses and responses may prove to have a tremendous impact on art making in the future. If we knew exactly what was appealing to viewers on a neurological level, wouldn't it be easy to create art that was in high demand and thus very lucrative? Would this be beneficial or a detriment to the authenticity of the artistic process?

Zenki's view of art history "as the progression of the human brain’s understanding of its own capacity for visual perception" may serve as an explanation of the trends and artistic movements. Has our artistic taste changed due to the biological evolution of the human brain? The idea that we are able to determine which areas of the brain are stimulated by different visual representation such as portraiture verses landscape and the ability to identify the order in which sensory cues are perceived, for example, color before shape and form is amazing.

It is, in my opinion, human nature to be influenced by context and the information presented to us...thus, placing more value on a piece of art simply because it has been selected for exhibition in the Met is not surprising to me. Is it really beautiful and appealing, or is it appealing because it has been dubbed valuable? As intriguing as this information and data may be, I think the real excitement will come from its use which will surely be controversial...Perhaps Zenki's research may open a new Pandora's box, unleashing a plethora of new questions about aesthetics and the value of art, as well as the ethics and integrity of genuine art making.


"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" right? The article about neuroaesthetics defines with scientific evidence what has been intuitive action for humans. However there I believe there is still an ineffable aspect about beauty which can never be proven. It is that "essesence" which is just out of our control to decide. However if funding for this research continues imagine being able to assess a person from the inside and out just on a glance. This would mean an end to all bad relationships forever!

What an interesting article and scientific theory. The concept that we could measure what most people find beautiful and use that when creating art. The idea that maybe the great masters of art, were in fact instinctive neuroscientists and have some higher understanding of how the brain views the world and beauty. Therefore, these artists could always create a visual language what was pleasurable to the eye. Imagine that scientifically we knew why we are attracted to certain pieces of art rather than an other; artists might change their style to be more pleasing to the publics’ eye and sell more artwork. This concept could be a threat to audition houses, art critics, artists, and art itself if pattern, design, composition, duration, materials uses, ideas, etc no longer mattered. And rather we classify what beautiful art is based on the publics’ overall opinion.
I think this is a very interesting scientific concept that could have some results on the art world. However, for the most part I think artists, art collectors, art critics, and etc would probably work even harder to find new ways to change art and refine beauty.

my face


Vector Self Portrait

vector self-portrait

vector self-portrait

Da Vinci

I think that this issue of creating replicas of works of art to display in the place of the originals is a strange concept. I understand that we want to preserve the original works, but what is the point of having them if they are sitting in a lightless airless box where no one can see them. By preserving the originals we are prematurely ending their existence for the purpose for which they were made. I think that there is something to be said for seeing a work of art for the original purpose for which it was made. I am not sure if it is more important for me to see the original, or the context, or just the image. I am reminded of seeing the statue of Marcus Aurelius at Capitoline Hill in Rome. In the center of the piazza there is a large replica statue where the original used to stand. Inside the museum was the original. I was much more impressed by the replica in context than the original in a white room. I felt almost the same when seeing the David in Florence. The only thing this lacks is the general sensation that I am in the presence of the actual object that was touched by Michelangelo (for example), but that is a rather fleeting sensation for myself. This very similar to the digital replica of the painting discussed in the article.
I still think that digital technologies are not quite advanced enough to create an exact replica of most works of art. An extremely high resolution digital print of a renaissance painting might be sufficient to capture the physicality of the work. Renaissance artists painted very flat, but could this work for Van Gogh? Once depth is introduced into a painting then a digital print is no longer sufficient. It seems that we already have the technology to create an accurate representation of a flat surface, and I am fairly sure that we can scan three-dimensional objects and create a perfect replica. We need to combine the two. I think if we could create a 3D replica of a painting that captures the brush strokes and depth, and colors each stroke appropriately then I think that there is little difference between owning or viewing the real thing or a replica.

You Tube

I found this discussion of YouTube to be rather interesting, though somewhat dated. The article was written in 2006 and I believe that YouTube has only grown in popularity since then. As far as I have seen, YouTube has changed little since its purchase by Google. The article discusses ways in which a monetary gain can be produced through advertising the way that television has commercials. YouTube has yet to introduce commercials before or after videos placed on the site. I think, and it would seem that the executives in charge agree, that this would be detrimental to its popularity. If YouTube did this, or charged people for membership with the sight, then competitors would create another site that would please users more. YouTube is not a revolutionary technology, but a revolutionary idea that happened to come about at the right time. Adding commercial spots, or charging would simply make for the right time for a competitor to succeed.
The idea of targeted advertising would likely be more successful. This, however, does not guarantee that a user would follow the link to the advertisers page. Likewise, television has developed easy to use technologies that allow viewers to skip commercials. TiVo and DVR have made it possible for people to record shows and fast-forward through commercials. I think that the introduction of non-intrusive targeted advertising on YouTube could eventually prove as successful as television commercials. If internet connections continue to improve, and streaming video technologies allow for better quality then YouTube could probably surpass traditional television in popularity. This coupled with many television viewers skipping commercials could make YouTube the new mainstream media. I think that television networks should start airing second runs of their shows on this platform. This would benefit the user with better quality, reduce illegal copying and sharing, and benefit the networks if targeted advertising can be implemented. Maybe something can be worked out that networks buy YouTube accounts and advertisers pay the networks to place ads on their “channels.” In this way, YouTube could remain user friendly, with limited commercial intrusions.

Beauty And Brains

I’m not sure that I understand the real significance of the findings described in the article. It seems to me that knowing which part of the brain is affected by aesthetic beauty will cause little change in the art world. First, I would imagine that this is subjective. I can’t believe that we can do a couple of brain scans while people are looking at a work of art, and suddenly decide that it is universally unpleasing to the aesthetic receptors. It could tell you whether an individual person believes that an individual work is beautiful or not, but I think on the whole we would gather little more.
Second, the article suggests that the value of works of art can change overnight, but I think the value of a work of art is not simply in its aesthetic beauty. While I do consider that highly important in a work of art it is not the only consideration, and I do not believe that art is valued in this way. I am a big fan of Marcel Duchamp, I know the article mocked his fountain, but I do not place beauty at the top of my list for the reason that I appreciate his work. Some of his works have a beauty to their construction but some are merely a snow shovel, or a urinal. According to the fears of art critics as described in the article, if I were to be tested I would discover that I do not find this work that aesthetically pleasing and therefore hate it.
I believe that there are many factors that go into deciding whether or not a work of art is valuable. When I assign value to a work in my mind I know that the decision is being based on beauty, skill, originality, concept, etc. This process determines one of many factors that go into this decision.

Monday, April 6, 2009

response: Neuroaesthetics

It's very strange that that the word, beauty, has been used as the focus of this study. My idea of beauty evolves from the first impression as I gather more knowledge and experience. To me, this applies not only to people and places, but to artwork as well. I would be curious to understand the different neurological effects of artwork seen for the first time versus artwork that is familiar to the viewer.

Zeki's research should also take trends into consideration. It's hard to believe that pleated bleached jeans and blazers with shoulder pads were once beautiful to many [raises hand]. The fact that some people, once again adopt these fashion beauties today makes my neurotransmitters chuckle.

The article mentions that the directors of auction houses may be most threatened by the research, but fails to offer that perhaps people who go to auctions have a similar aesthetic preference. This makes me wonder if Zeki himself has a narrow definition of art, despite the mention of his extensive work with artists.

It's inspiring that research is being done in an attempt to bridge the gap between art and science, but I don't think a study like this can be very useful without also investigating many important factors.


I think that Zeki’s view of art history as a study in the progression of the understanding our own visual perception is very interesting. I wonder if his research would be less controversial if he was focusing more on this aspect, and not the beauty aspect. There is still very little known about how visual perception works, and I think research with the goal to further understanding would be more valuable than what Zeki is doing. Questions like “what is beauty? “ and “what is art?” have as many different answers as there are people on this planet. People have been trying to discover the answer to that question for a very long time. If there is a universal beauty, how can you account for all the different kinds of art? Wouldn’t everything start looking the same, if we were all driven to a universal beauty? I find the idea of a universal beauty difficult. How do you account for the constantly changing styles of art and standards of beauty throughout history and between cultures?


I’m not sure why Art Critics and Auctioneers are so worried about this research. The art critic often serves as the “public relations officer” getting the art or art movement recognized by the masses, not a scientist. The art critic also serves to document the history of art while it’s happening. It’s their job to disseminate the messages, the higher-level concepts, the uniqueness, and the groundbreaking ideas from all other art; they must also think beyond color, form and aesthetic beauty. They must also think beyond the research that is being done on neuroaesthetics.

All that said, in the same way that disc jockeys used to determine the music that would become popular, art critics often times determine or influence what art will become popular. However with the influx of new radio stations on air and on the internet, as well as the tape trading and underground grass roots movement, music that might not have been discovered before is now getting into the hands of many. In the same way, good art that moves people will also find its breeding ground outside the art critic and scientific world. Possibly through the Internet, fanzines, and the like. And the labels or awards and placement in a museum may play a less significant role in the future.

At the end of the day, how many people are ONLY going to listen to a scientist tell them why they like or dislike a particular piece of art? And to further that point, how many lovers of art are ONLY going listen to what an art critic has to tell them? A person’s gut reaction will always impact their opinion regardless of what is said about the artwork.

It’s interesting to understand the reasons for our responses when observing and creating art; it doesn’t diminish our innate passion in any way. Therefore, I have no problem with a scientist doing research to understand how the brain reacts to art in order to understand how the brain functions on a deeper level.

Article 5 Response

The one question I kept asking while reading this article was, "Why does it matter so much if someone thinks a work of art is beautiful?"  Isn't beauty only one of the factors that make art "valuable" in our world?  What about the artist who made it, the circumstances behind its creation or the overall message that it conveys?  Doesn't the contextual information of a work of art have as much sway over its importance/value/regard in the art world as the aesthetic beauty of it?  If this is so, then why would art critics be so bothered by his research?  I think its really wonderful that we can map out the brain and find the specific clusters of neurons that react when one views something they like.  I don't think we need to find out if people are really lying when they say they like a work of art.  Its like making a lie detector test for people who are aloof about their taste in art.  I do, however, find it interesting the theory that specific painting movements are influenced by our brain's response to the artwork that it is interpreting.  It makes me wonder where this research is going and what it will find out next.   

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Neurological aesthetics

Personally I don't understand how being able to breakdown love or desire to a neurological pattern is a negates of love's mystery. We still don't why it happens. Scientific explanations only attempt to answer how things affect one another. I think Zeiki's studies are quite fascinating but would like to know what evidence has been held against his scientific claims as I'm sure evidence on brain function is subject to subjectivity.
Perhaps if there was a way to compare classically beautiful pictures with a graph of harmonic frequencies, evidence could be concocted.I have often wondered if there is a connection between musical harmony and visual symmetry. I think the theory of reflexivity applies to most facts and impressions about beauty , which is simply that what you think about something determines what it is ( see Observable principle).
Beauty is connected to societal norms and the visual preferences ingrained in us from previous generations. If anyone ever wishes to read a great essay about objectivity and subjectivity of beauty, written by capitalist pioneer, Adam Smith, check out : The Impartial Spectator .

Mayan MIdterm

oops!  Didn't realize we were supposed to post these!  Here's mine...sorry it's late!

Exemplar for midterm:  11th grade, "the end of society" digital collage.  What made the Mayan society fall?  What could make American society fall?  Make a digital collage that depicts what you think could destroy the society you live in.