brain scan

Issue #2: Evaluating Neuroaesthetics

In a special dossier, contributors present claims for and against neuro-, cognitive, and evolutionary aesthetics. Edited by Todd Cronan.

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Terrence Malick’s New World

By (University of Chicago)

On screen and soundtrack, The New World stages internal relations and disjunctions while revealing them to be constitutive of a cinematic world. Yet the purpose of the film is precisely not to articulate a defensible thesis about “worldhood.” It is to effect nothing less than a conversion of the gaze—a purpose inimical to an academic industry that takes positive knowledge as its goal.

knight

Neurovisuality

By (University of California, Berkeley)

The hypothesis of neurovisuality may allow a general theory of visual culture to be coordinated with a general science of vision. Possibly it can help make sense of unresolved problems in art history, including the question of the “power of images” and their “agency” in human perception.

On Catherine Malabou’s What Should We Do with Our Brain?

By (Johns Hopkins University)

It thus seems as if the very problem which is at the center of the mind/brain debate, namely, the nature of intentionality, is now being offered as the solution: the claim is that intentional agency just is the biological process that can produce the desired-for “gaps” or differences that characterize freedom.

The Policeman

Two Problems with a Neuroaesthetic Theory of Interpretation

…if we’re thinking like Mark Johnson, we can simply add these examples to our bucket of evidence that the human mind is structured by our bodily orientation in space, and hence so is our art. Put that way, the difference between having an account of the meaning of the work and having an account of its causes is not only easy to see, but, I would argue, an easy strike against the kinds of neuro approaches I’ve been describing thus far.

Fig. 1. Pablo Picasso, Woman with Pears (Fernande), 1909 (© 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society, New York)

Carl Einstein, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Cubism, and the Visual Brain

By (Williams College)

On this question Einstein and Kahnweiler held diametrically opposed positions. Moreover–and this is my main interest–their respective positions correspond to successive phases in the developing neuroscientific understanding of the visual brain. Kahnweiler’s interpretation of cubism was shaped by the neuroscience of his day while, remarkably, Einstein’s account of seeing, as he believed it to be embodied in cubist paintings, anticipates by half a century a fundamental breakthrough in the neuroscientific understanding of vision.

Distribution of U.S. Wealth, 2007Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/15-charts-about-wealth-and-inequality-in-america-2010-4

Responses to Neoliberal Aesthetics

Walter Benn Michael’s “Neoliberal Aesthetics: Fried, Rancière and the Form of the Photograph,” published in our first issue, has generated responses from Michael Clune, Nicholas Brown, and Todd Cronan.

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