The Human Connectome Project aims to provide an unparalleled compilation of neural data, an interface to graphically navigate this data and the opportunity to achieve never before realized conclusions about the living human brain.
I’m a big fan of Greg Dunn’s gold leaf paintings of neurons and other natural structures, but I also love his scrolls. Scrolls similar to these are often hung in Japanese rooms for contemplation during traditional tea ceremonies. I’ve been lucky enough to participate in a couple of tea ceremonies and although I’m no expert, these scrolls seem to really capture some of the objectives of the ritual: appreciation of the harmony of nature and self cultivation.
Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century (Abrams, November 2010) follows the fascinating exploration of the brain through images. These beautiful black-and-white and vibrantly colored images, many resembling abstract art, are employed daily by scientists around the world, but most have never before been seen by the general public. From medieval sketches and 19th-century drawings by the founder of modern neuroscience to images produced using state-of-the-art techniques, readers are invited to witness the fantastic networks in the brain.
Each chapter in Portraits of the Mind addresses a different set of techniques for studying the brain, and each is introduced with an essay by a leading scientist in that field of study. Extended captions provide detailed explanations of each image as well as the major insights gained by scientists over the course of the past twenty years. The result is a peek at the mind’s innermost workings, helping readers to understand, and offering clues about what may lie ahead.
Memory is closely linked to forgetting. Before the digital era, forgetting was easy, for better or worse, not only is it biologically in-built to forget, the analog world around us cannot guarantee that recorded memories will last forever. Photographs fade, film footage can be lost and media out-dated, thus remembering was the exception and forgetting the default. Now in an age of endless digital image reproduction there is no longer a need to remember. We externalise our memories by handing them over to the digital realm enabled through digitization; inexpensive storage software, ease of retrieval and global access, blurring lines of ownership and making virtual forgetting close to impossible.
In the installation, Low-resolution portraits are projected onto the gallery wall, generated by a hardcoded mechanical structure, which in the nature of its construction limits the selection of available images.
‘Hardcoded memory’ is a reflection on the moment, and on time itself, standing as a metaphor for the human search for meaning and continuity, while celebrating forgetting in the digital age.
I work at the convergence of science and art in the study of the human brain. I create portraits of myself and others through the use of magnetic resonance images (MRIs) and the latest advances in neuroimaging technology. With the assistance of leaders in the field of neurology and neuroscience, my images provide new insights into the brain and, at the same time, make medical imaging and its representative humanity more accessible to both medical professionals and others who view these revealing pictures.
My fascination with medical imaging and brain scans has a personal basis. Diagnosed with the disease of multiple sclerosis, I found myself confronting stark images of my brain that seemed equally frightening and mesmerizing. In tackling this contradiction, I felt a strong urge to reinterpret these images — to use them to explore the amazing biological structure of the brain. My current artwork saturates these cold, two-dimensional computerized pixels with rich colors that transform scientific images into portraits of individuals with all the frailties, humor, and idiosyncrasies that make us human.
Waterhouse & Dodd’s upcoming show by Angela Palmer takes the viewer on a journey through space and time. Using digital information provided by MRI and CT scans, Angela peels back layers to uncover a hidden natural world and ‘maps’ these patterns onto individual sheets of glass. These are encased to form beautiful sculptures outlining the complexity and elegance of not just the human body. “From certain angles, above and from the side, they become invisible, mere glass. From other vantage points, however, they are exquisite celebrations of when the ordinary become extraordinary. Palmer simultaneously maps the natural and the sublime.” Andrew Billen 2012.
39 Brains Form a Flower by Pablo Garcia-Lopez. Garcia-Lopez holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry from Autonoma University, and a PhD in Neuroscience. His work explores the connections between Neuroscience and Art.
About the work:
[His work is] directly influenced by Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s idea that “the cerebral cortex is similar to a garden filled with innumerable trees, the pyramidal cells, that can multiply their branches thanks to an intelligent cultivation, sending their roots deeper and producing more exquisite flowers and fruits every day.” (Cajal, 1894)
Garcia Lopez’s sculptures and prints explore the themes of sprouting, branching, budding and pollinating, in the brain as in a garden. The artist says that “Cajal’s romantic and naturalistic visual metaphors inspired his projects against the current mechanistic models that have dominated science during the latest centuries, helping to mechanize the body and the mind.”