Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art and the brain according to Zeki

A work of art is a product of the brain, a work of literature is a product of the brain and one can learn a great deal about the limits and the possibilities of brain organisation by looking at these works. Professor Zeki thinks that neuroscientist have anything to teach the humanist or the artist, that Cezanne's drawing would improve by knowing how the brain works. Implying that neurscoientist have a great deal to learn from artist, but don't have that much to teach them.

One of the primordial functions of the brain is to acquire knowledge, but the making of sense of this world; of the impulses that we are getting all day long which are often in a chaotic state, is a primordial function of the brain. Let us say portrait painting, a great portrait is one which gives you knowledge of a certain character, of certain characteristics of that character, and hence becomes applicable not to just one person but applicable to many characters of that time. For example you could paint arrogance, or resigned resentment, in the late self portrait of Rembrandt there is this resigned resentment at failing powers, and this is applicable to many people. It is knowledge about the character that it gives you.

The characteristic of an efficient knowledge-acquiring system, faced with permanent change, is its capacity to abstract, to emphasize the general at the expense of the particular. Abstraction, which arguably is a characteristic of every one of the many different visual areas of the brain, frees the brain from enslavement to the particular and from the imperfections of the memory system.

An interesting thing Lichenstein said is that science is often considered to be for learning whereas art is for pleasure. And people don't realise that you learn a great deal from art as well. If you want to learn something about human nature, let us say about arrogance, would you be better off reading Corielanus by Shakespeare or studying textbooks of psychology? Probably you would benefit from both, enormously.

One way of looking at art history, in Zeki’s terms, is as the progression of the human brain’s understanding of its own capacity for visual perception. You can see this in artists work "When an artist says: ‘How can I make a great portrait?’" Zeki observes, "what they really mean is ‘how can I represent this particular face on canvas so that it allows the brain to generalize its concept of faces and therefore becomes a great portrait?’" This desire can be tested experimentally; some cells in the brain will only "fire" with excitement when presented with particular views of the face. The greatest portrait painters have, through experiment, intuition, and skill, discovered the rules of this visual grammar.

When we study, the capacity to evaluate something that's beautiful, you are actually interacting with the work of art. and you're deciding whether it's nice or not. Zeki emphasizes that they haven't located beauty, which is another common misapprehension, they just located the neural activity that corresponds with the appreciation of particular works of art. Meaning that beauty isn't strictly located in the brain; nevertheless the brain is an enabling system for you to appreciate beauty.


the walking man said...

By extrapolation then Zeki says that all feeling evoked by a particular piece of art, all individual understanding of the image presented is merely chemical response. I must simply say bullshit on this because that reduces all life to nothing more than chemistry.

There can be no scientific negation of the mystical portion of man simply because there is to much empirical evidence supporting the places not chemically originated within "man."

Mariana Soffer said...

the walking man
I agree that it is bullshit reducing everything to a chemical response, it is an absurd and limited reductionist aproach. But I do not think he is saying that he is saying the opposite of it, he is stating that neuroscientists barely understand anything and that scientist have a lorn to learn from artist, that with intrution understanded much more of life an perseption than science ever could.

Of course that you can not negate spirituality with science, they can not be mixed, but he is against that he searches beyond it, I can send you some texts he wrote about artists, that are amazing and really enlighting, and have nothing to do with neurosciente, or chemistry.

But what he did was experiment with the scientific machines to see if he could identify some things that happen with it, and he said that they haven't located beauty, which is another common misapprehension, they just located the neural activity that corresponds with the appreciation of particular works of art. Which indeed means they did not find anything really defining or creating scientific understanding about the circuitry.

Hope you can see what I mean with this. Let me know also if you disagree, I am always interested in your thoughts
Bye my friend

Ariel_from_Plainsboro said...

Mariana: Great post. A little pinch of disagreement on my part on your interesting exchange with The walking man. Regarding spirituality, unless someone develops a tool that convincingly demonstrates that a soul is not a physiological process of the human brain, to me, spirituality is nothing but the result of chemical, albeit exquisitely complicated, reactions. It may be reductionist, but so far there is no other logical and reasonable way to explain it. We shouldn't disregard what a beautiful marvel the human brain is. If we think that the laws of physics rule the universe, we have to apply Occam's razor on this one too.
Big hug, warmest wishes.

Mariana Soffer said...

the walking man

I was thinking about what I told you and I changed my mind about one thing I said, I think you are right in the fact that is nonsense trying to find a thing like apreciation of art in the brain, and explain the mechanism of functioning of it. Maybe it is a pretencious kind of thing from scientist to do. Anyway one think I apreciate a lot about this guy is that among the neuroscientist he is the least inclined towards explaining the arts true scientific research, he is more interested in doing it the other way arround.

Bye my friend

Mariana Soffer said...


Thank you very much, I like that you are also very nice and polite, but at the same time express what is on your mind.
I do not have a clue wether the soul is a process of the human mind or not, maybe the human mind is magical, spiritual and mistical thing, who knows what s in it? I agree that it is nonsense to reduce the spirit to a plain explanation involving only scientific systems and elements, no mater how complex it is just science, it can not be enough to explain it.
Well you are right you have to negotiate in the end, there is always a trade of in anything you want to analize, predict or explain.

Thanks a lot for your comment

Raul said...

Excelent post, very thought provoking and also teaches interesting things about complex stuff.
I was thinking about what he says about abstraction in artist, how they represent that, express it, and how is that vinculated to the universals among the different persons, and its counterparts the congrete and the individual or particular. I was trying to understand how to relate those things that seem pretty analogous in my brain

Mariana Soffer said...

What I understand is something like this:
Art belongs in the subjective world. Yet subjective differences in the creation and appreciation of art must be superimposed on a common neural organization that allows us to communicate about art and through art without the use of the spoken or written word. In his requiem in marble, Michelangelo invested the lifeless body of Christ with infinite feeling - of pathos, tenderness, and resignation. the feelings aroused by his Pietã are no doubt experienced in different ways, and in varying intensity, by different brains. But the inestimable value of variable subjective experiences should not distract from the fact that, in executing his work, Michelangelo instinctively understood the common visual and emotional organization and workings of the brain. That understanding allowed him to exploit our common visual organization and arouse shared experiences beyond he reach of words. This commonality identification is probably done by the same mechanism that is capable of producing and understanding abstractions which also guided by intuition.
Although I am not sure about this, is just a thought. We need to read more to understand what you want in a more accurate and precise form.

Tjanks for your thinking

Giovana said...

I was thinking about his search for knowledge, and his affirmation that that is one of the principal quests of the brain, that is an interesting idea, I would like to know what does he think about what happens with that in reality, and how it affects humans beings with it.

Mariana Soffer said...

He thinks that the following:
Brain promises more than it can deliver. It has got superbly efficient machinery for acquiring knowledge, an extraordinary capacity to do this with speed and efficiency. But it gives you a knowledge which, through the concept which you cannot always satisfy and therefore dooms people to dissatisfaction in important areas of their life. Now it is perhaps not that important. I may have a vision, indeed I do have a vision of the kind of house I'd like to have and I'll never be able to have it, a chateau somewhere in the Loire.
we are plagued with a permanent state of dissatisfaction, that the brain quests for perfection, we can never deliver it.
s a horrible paradox but it is also a gift, because you know if you are satisfied you may not carry on producing things, and if you're not, you strive to more and more to get something which is really worthwhile and I think it's a sort of a gift. Imagine if Beethoven had been satisfied with the 5th Symphony, he would not have gone on to write his late quartet or his late sonatas and that would have been a huge loss.

Hope you find this response as interesting as I do, bye.

Anonymous said...

What is brain? What is life?
What’s perception? Who am I?
Consciousness? Awareness? Selfnesses are?

What is the world? What is now?
Reality? Imagination? Dreams and stuff?
What is out there? When where…Why?

Is reality for real? Or is just a though?
Is the world a perspective? Or motion in time?
Is is is…? I want to know why

Renee said...

Mariana can I get stuffed in your suitcase next time you go to Spain.

Love Renee xoxo

Charles Gramlich said...

Although I Believe people are best understood through their biology, that biology is in no way a simple thing. Biology and chemistry are gloriously complex subjects that are capable of providing us with rich ways of thinking about what it means to be human. Even saying that one is the product of one's chemistry still allows room for tremendous variability in how we interact, love, and hate each other.

Mariana Soffer said...

My friend d. your questions are THE questions indeed, I see you really want to know more about those things, let me reply a couple of comments more and I will give you some more things to read.
Here is something: the brain is the physical organ itself, that contains both hemispheres, specialized parts, neurons who do synapses and chemistry that modifies the functionality of it.
Life in generally can be consider of any thing which is called being or organism that is alive, which implies having cells, one at least. Perception is the particular way you see things, which is of course subjective, because the input to this mechanism is not like a mechanical thing, is modified, altered and apreciated according your own models of how you percive the world, and particulary that situation you are in.
Dreams I am not sure but I think part of their functionality consist in process the information you learn or aquired when you where awake, to accomodate it in your brain in order to generalize, asociate and it also helps fixating learned routines such as ridinga bike.
The universe is out there, I know is too general what I say, and I can not answer the next question because I do not know what you refer to.

I ll go on

Mariana Soffer said...

Of course my friend, or another way is that we can buy a costume of a dog that fits your size and you get in it, we buy a pet cage, and I deliver you as if you where my pet friend, I think it would be more confortable than being locked in a suitcase. What do you think?
Hope you are doing well

Mariana Soffer said...

I like what you say, no model of explanation should exclude the other, and they should also leave room for variances.

Here he refers to what you say, talking about the variability in the neuroscientific studies they are performing about the brain, hope you are interested in this:

It is for this reason that the artist is in a sense, a neuroscientist, exploring the potentials and capacities of the brain, though with different tools. How such creations can arouse aesthetic experiences can only be fully understood in neural terms. Such an understanding is now well within our reach. The first step is to understand better the common organization of our visual and emotional brains, before we can even proceed to enquire into the determinants of neural variability. But there is little reason to doubt that a study of variability, of how a common visual activation can arouse disparate emotional states, will constitute the next giant step in experimental studies of the visual brain.

Be well my friend

Mariana Soffer said...

Regarding consciousness:
First, conscious states are highly differentiated; they are informationally very rich. You can be conscious of an uncountable number of things: you can watch your son’s piano recital, for instance; you can see the flowers in the garden outside or the Gauguin painting on the wall. Think of all the frames from all the movies you have ever seen or that have ever been filmed or that will be filmed! Each frame, each view, is a specific conscious percept.
Second, this information is highly integrated. No matter how hard you try, you cannot force yourself to see the world in black-and-white, nor can you see only the left half of your field of view and not the right. When you’re looking at your friend’s face, you can’t fail to also notice if she is crying. Whatever information you are conscious of is wholly and completely presented to your mind; it cannot be subdivided


Regarding who are you:Self-consciousness is credited only with the development of identity (see ego). In an epistemological sense, self-consciousness is a personal understanding of the very core of one's own identity. Self-awareness is a self-conscious state in which attention focuses on oneself. It makes people more sensitive to their own attitudes and dispositions.

Consiousness and awareness>
...consciousness is by nature multifaceted. Clearly, attention is needed, as attention is the arbiter of awareness, the gatekeeper to the senses. Perception must then arise from attention; perception is a key to the kingdom of the mind. Though attention and perception enable us to be sensitive to our environment, they don’t enable us to be conscious of it, unless we also have a template to which new perceptions can be compared. Thus, memory is an integral part of consciousness. The final and most ineffable element of consciousness is awareness; this can be understood as one part of the brain monitoring another part, watching it work. Thus, we propose that consciousness arises only when a subject shows a combination of attention, perception, memory, and awareness.

And you should reads books about neuroscientist to learn a little more, also there is a good post wich is called thoughts on thoughts that talks a lot about how the brain works.

Maybe I was wrong with what I replied to you and you where indeed searching for some kind of new-age self-help book, let me know if it s like this.
So maybe I should leave you for now my dear

Jessie Carty said...

i continue to love how you connect the scientific to the aesthetic :)

otin said...

My brain keeps only the useless knowledge and forgets the important stuff! hehe!

Mariana Soffer said...

Jessie Carty
thanks for your visiting and commenting. You made me realize that I write a lot about relationating those things, I did not notice I care that much about it before writing this blog. Maybe ise due to my background, parents in medicing and in paintings, interesting mix both.

Mariana Soffer said...

The important stuff is generally known by a larger amount of people, and also easier to find in the net, so probably is a good strategy the one you have for storing memories.
Take care friend

Lydia said...

Such excellence here, Mariana. Your blog is alive! My brain always turns on when I'm here, and this post was certainly no exception.
Tonight I was watching public broadcasting and an interview with film writer-director Quentin Tarantino. He said that he suggests aspiring writers take classes in acting instead of writing in order to truly understand characterization and characters themselves. I am shy that way, but it makes real sense to me that acting class would enliven writing skills.

the walking man said...

For arguments sake lets separate the soul from the spirit. All of the mystic texts that I know of (Bible, Quran, Gitas, Talmud, Cabala. etc) make such a distinction.

The soul again for arguments sake can be defined as the human aspect of the being, the intellect and the biology (body and mind) that portion which relies on and interacts with the physical world and yes science is ever delving deeper into this world.

Ever trying to puncture the membrane between the physical and the spiritual and ever coming closer to that point. For example the latest is that we now have "pictures" of the point in time a mere 380,000 years away from the big bang.

Yet even if we close that short gap and get a look at the moments before the blast we still will only be looking at the material realm.

It is in the provenance of man and our science to understand all that is within the physical world but the perception of beauty and creativity is individual, primordial. For both the one seeing and and the maker of it.

Yet it is still a material object that is provoking the response and thus should be somehow quantified in the chemistry of the brain, we just haven't found the path to that quantification yet.

(I personally hope we never do because then some sage of a scientist will make a compound that will trigger the response with a pill and sip of water.)

The spiritual portion of mans being, the place that is ever immortal and present is where, to me at least, where the foundation for all TRUTH and beauty begins. Truth being defined as that which is as it is regardless of anyone's thoughts or theories or proofs on the matter. It will still be what it will be.

Beauty being defined as truth. Nothing more and nothing less.

The beauty of truth is that unless one is spiritual of nature (not physical) there is no way possible for the perception of the truth because in this case truth is spiritual in nature.

The absolute hilarious part of all of this is that the more complex we make the formula the further we are from the simplicity of the answer.

The simplicity is this...We have an eternal portion to our being that will never be defined by mathematics, yet if we simply accept that this is truth without needing science to explain it we then come to be in the eternal right now.

Once the perspective of the individual is changed from being a physical being to a spiritual one the definitions of physical beauty change as well. The synaptic responses will change and the measurements also will change.

And the beauty of it all is, is simply that no measurement will ever quantify the immortal or eternal nature of mans spirit only the responses to the change in perspective.

The spiritual nature can only be accepted or rejected right now, the proof or final solution is not ready to be revealed to us at this time simply because we are still, as one genera of life, are locked in that time. When there is no longer any constraint that can be measured and defined as time is measured today then there will be no more yesterday and tomorrow; only the right now.

Science is interesting but merely a temporary amusement for man to occupy time with. Take away time and the whole of the being changes.

This is the theorem I live by.

Rayuela said...

Espero haber comprendido bien cual es tu postura al respecto de la teoría de ZeKi. Personalmente, no creo que el sentido de la belleza sea una actividad puramente neuronal, sino que debe existir un conjunto de relaciones establecidas entre sensibilidad, conocimientos téorico-técnicos, percepción pura y un contexto sociocultural que nos permita "aprehender" y aprender de,con y para la belleza.
Tu entrada me recuerda un texto con el que se trabaja en la Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, en la carrera de Diseño Industrial (que tampoco es mi área,lo mío son las letras),llamado "Aprender a dibujar con el lado derecho del cerebro", Betty Edwuards, Edit.Blume,Madrid, 1984;caps 2,3,4 y 6.
Este texto, al igual que tu post, me hicieron reflexionar acerca de la capacidad innata para el arte y la belleza,y cómo podemos, mediante ciertas técnicas que pondrán en actividad ciertas zonas cerebrales,acrecentar esa capacidad.
Un beso!

Mark Kerstetter said...

"The brain promises more than it can deliver."

Not to argue for leaving the acquisition of knowledge aside, but what is to be done with this knowledge of the brain? As if, the more one knows about what one's brain does the more one can get outside it - this is a mistake.

Yes, artists offer a bridge between the general and the particular, but why do they do it? It's about more than pleasure, and curiosity about how the brain works is probably very low on the list of concerns.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks you very much for your marvelous compliments, you are a really nice woman. I also enjoy reading your blog, but lately I am lakcing time to read and focus on things other than in my job. But I ll be back, it is jus ta small period of time.

You know what, I think is really good the advice Tarantino say, rally really smart cause the body, and doing things, acting them, it triggers things in your brain, that just the thinking and writting task would never be able to awake, so yes I think that is an excelent way, but also I think there are other methods that function as well, you might also use more than one, depends you have to adapt it to the person, see what technique fells right for that kind of character, that is the art in discovering the path to learn. And in that path search, the learner itself must be really active and in touch with it s inner self
Hugz lydia and thanks

Robb Todd said...

This was beautiful

Mariana Soffer said...

Rayuela said

I hope I understood well what you think reagarding Zeki theory. I do not think that beauty is an exclusively neuronal activity, but that there must be a a group of relationships already establkisshed among sensibility, theorical and technical knowledge, pure perception and a sociocultural context that allow us to learn from, with and for the beauty.
You entry reminds me to a text that is used in the university of LP, in industrial design (which is not also my field, mine is letters), called LEarning to draw with the right side of the brain by Betty Edwards, Edit. Blume, Madrid 84. Chapter 2,3,4 and 6.
This text, same like your post, made me thinkg about the innate capacity for art, beauty and how trough certain technics that can activate determinated areas of the brain increase that capacity.

Mariana Soffer said...

I think that you along with the walking man thing the same, that science is a reductionst aproach, not enough to explain this concepts.

My view of Z theory is that he is an amazing neuroscience, because I never saw any science of that field who where so open mind and humble about what their researchs can collaborate with. I like that, and also that he thinks that artists know much more than neuroscience do, like impressonist about how the visual perception of the brain is. And he acknowledge they did learn it in a kind of intruitive non scientific way. And he suggest scientist should try to learn from them. I like this thoughts comming from him. But on the other side I realized with the conversations here that I am turning too much into a reductionist scientist myself, and I do not like that at all, in any way, so I am trying to learn, to get better.

I agree with what you say because I belive we should intergrate all the different fields and take advantage of what each one has to give, to understand, learn and evolve things.

I never ever heard of that book, but I will try to give it a look if I can.

Great question to end with, who know, maybe we should try to discover that, to have a more pleasurable life, than to get to know the neural pathways of art in itself.
big Hugz to yourself

Mariana Soffer said...

Mark Kerstetter
I was just telling to my friend regarding that, the folowing:

FRIEND:I was thinkg about the innate capacity for art, beauty and how trough certain technics that can activate determinated areas of the brain increase that capacity.

ME:maybe we should try to discover that, to have a more pleasurable life, than to get to know the neural pathways of art in itself.

So I was kind of re-thinking what and why we search and try to understand things, if they do not help us in anything.

I do not think artists offer a brige between those to thinks, I think they mix them to realize their art works in an intruitive way. And I agree they do not care about how the brain works, and on top of that I think that knowing that would not help them do a better work.
I think art is pretty related to exploration and curiosity, and also to a personal internal search, maybe those are the motives. I do not think pleasure is one of the artist motivators, I do not know why, because it is what art should do to us give us pleasure, but I do not htink the artist seeks for it in his art, just a thought, can not justify it much dough.

Thanks a lot for stepping by and sharing your intersting thoughts

Mariana Soffer said...

The walking man
Spirit and soul:The terms soul and spirit are often used interchangeably, although the former may be viewed as a more worldly and less transcendent aspect of a person than the latter. The words soul and psyche can also be treated synonymously, although psyche has relatively more physical connotations, whereas soul is connected more closely to metaphysics and religion.

I was also thinkings if limits between spiritual and phisical worlds where clear, or blurry? If there are mixing more and more among each other as we advance in the new researchs. I think that you are reight, even dough science appears to get closer to the spirit, it is not, it is always evaluating, observing and juding it from the scientific viewpoint, which I doubt can be used to understand the soul. This is becauswe science plays bu it s own rules, which I do not think have enough concepts or symbols to englobe in it the analysis of the spirit.

True, we try to understand all that is within the physical world but the perception of beauty and creativity is individual, primordial. I think that is when we call it subjective, or personal, cause it is not a universal among beings, this reminded me to an excelent short I strongly recomend you to see form a John Lennon iterview about the creator of the artwork and the apreciator of it: and

I know you do not want them to understand or find the pathway scientifically, me in a way neither, because that will take away losts of magic in us, it will make us look just like robots with clearly defined mechanisms

I agree with the spiritual being the fundation, just look at history, beauty was always there for human beings to apreciate, but science did not existed, and beauty did not need science for being apreciated.

Yess, we are getting further for the simplicity, we are building more and more complex models to explain those things, I think it is because those models are really flawed from their start, the idea ot things those models have is completely wrong, so the try to patch them to adapt them more to real life.
But yes simplicity and being right here right now must be the keys to understanding for real that life is what it is.

Intersting what you say about time, there is this article that just came out about why it only goes one way, it was on sci magazine I think, it was crap I thongut anyway.

I am so happy you expressed you theory here, that you shared it with us, I will keep thinking anyway about this stuff, you reall brought my atention to this subject with the first comment you left about it.

Take care my friend

Mariana Soffer said...

Rob Todd
Thanks rob, such a nice an inteteresting pal

Uncle Tree said...

" isn't strictly located in the brain..." well, the brain isn't strictly beautiful, either.

Did Adam think Eve was beautiful? If so, what did he have to go on? What would have been his basis for seeing her as such?

A couple of posts back you had that diagram showing how the feeling of 'awe' was close to the feeling of 'fear'. Fear of the new, I suppose. But are we not right to fear beauties? How many wars have been started because of a beautiful woman?
Beauty is power. Knowledge is power. How many powers exist in all reality. I am going to guess that there is only one. What is beautiful, is how it became two.

Is that not a charitable act on the part of one? Acts of charity are universally perceived to be beautiful. There had to be a first act of charity at some point in history. Was Eve being charitable when she offered up her apple to Adam? Or did she have an ulterior motive (inborn) to begin with?

This is another good post, Mariana. Many aspects come into play, and many were previously covered by you and your friendly readers, so I have tried to bring something else into the big picture. Sorry for asking so many questions. I know how busy you must be, and I think you are a beautiful person, even though I've never seen your face. Hugz!

julochka said...

if you think about it, without brain capacity, there would be no culture, no art, so there must be a connection. very interesting to ponder.

have you read steven pinker's books on the brain and its capacities?

Mariana Soffer said...

uncle tree
Actually the brain is pretty awfull, I do not know if you ever saw one or even better touch one, it is pretty disgusting in all its aspects.

Excelent question, I guess he thought so. The basis, well there was no cultural baggage involved, so It came from himself alone, I guess there where his instincts that lead him to belive so.

There are many things that provide power, it all depends on the group of people who judge it, if you are clever enough, you can notice what they value the most, before they test how valuable you are for them.

But I think there are 2 kinds of beauties we are talking about here, one is regarding aesthetical beauty of a person, which is related usually to sexual atractivness and the other is the beauty of spirit. I guess charitable acts have the beauty of the spirit type, and my hunch regarding Eve is that she was not being beautifull, she just did not dare to do it alone. She needed company to comit the sin.

Thank you very much uncle for your compliment, You certainly brought interesting thoughts to my mind, I was even thinking about reding the bible to remember exactely how where the situations you mention in your reflections. And please make as many questions as you want, maybe that will trigger more in me that will be directed to you, or in the worst case I will just have to answer it a few days later.

I am going to send you a picture of myself, soon you ll have it.

Big big hugh my friend

Mariana Soffer said...


I think it is an interaction, a collaboration, which is very difficult to analize.

I guess you are refering to how the mind works volume, and yes, but a long time ago, although my favourite at that time was minsky regarding mind functioning an IA. I like this part which as you say relates to this post:

"Pinker suggests that we can never know how the mind works - not completely anyway. If the mind is the product of natural selection, he asks, 'why should we expect it comprehend all mysteries and to grasp all truths?' Among the mysteries that he expects not to understand are consciousness, sentience and free will. But then, Pinker seems to believe that these are philosophical, not scientific, concerns. And his aim is to sweep away philosophical speculation from psychology and provide a truly scientific account of the mind. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in this he fails."

Good recomendation about the book!

Jim Murdoch said...

Science can tell you how to but art enables you to experience. Science by its very nature is dispassionate. That is its strength. And art's strength is that it is subjective. Art also requires a greater commitment from the reader or viewer. Science gets by with an intellectual appreciation. Science tells you that 1+1+2 – poetry tells you that 1+1=1. The former is easy to grasp but the latter takes more abstract thought.

Mariana Soffer said...

jim murdoch:
Hello my friend, nice to see you here.

I agree with the begining is like art is more related to the actual practice and science to the theory about how you do it.
I am a scientists, I do not think is devoid of passion, I think it has strict rules which are not suppose to be broken, while is not like that in art, and that there is a strong need for discipline, but that is mainly shaped by society I think. But anyway I think that both of them are getting more mixed.

But thinking what you said before again, art does not make sense without passion, and sience does even if you do not have it.

I think that art has no constraints to get to either truth, or amazing creations, it has freedom of protocols, ways to explore, rules, everything. That is how it performs its search, which when guided by instinct towards the right way can take us to magical places without the need to know how, and without a method to do it.

Thanks a lot for your intersting thoughts about art.

Anonymous said...

I think that art is inspired in the soul and translated through the brain, but I you have to believe in the soul I guess for my theory to work. Great post.

Lane Savant said...

Science studies THE brain.
Each of us has A brain.
According to Lewis Black, we are all "snowflakes".
At the beginning of time each particle of the universe gained it's vector.
It's a gigantic pool shot, there's nothing we can do about it.

Anonymous said...

I understand and agree that the brain has a key role in the creation of art but I think there is another key element over which the brain has no power at all: inspiration.

What is a muse? Where does it come from? Is it just a thought or an event that triggers out some part of the brain to start creating? Is it really necessary to understand what it is or is it just more delightful to enjoy the mystery of it?

All these topics you present Mariana, they are just so interesting!

Mariana Soffer said...

I belive in the soul, dough some times I have my doubts ,most of the time I am really sure about it. Indeed I am sure but sometimes science and being too much with scientifics can lead me to think the other thing. But I did never ever belive a computer will be able to act or be like a human being, no matter how much artificial intelligence expertice we aquire.

What you say reminds me of one of my thoughts about science, I think you need an artistic inspiration to start a new scientific thing, and then you need to deal with that inspiration or idea in a rational way, which is of course
done by the brain.

Thanks a lot and I am happy that you visited here and shared your thoughts

Mariana Soffer said...

Lane Savant

You start with a kind of scientificc observation/truth about the brain.
Then continue wiht something I completelly agree with, which is mr black quote:"We are all shitty little snowflakes dancing in the universe."
I think that what you are saying is that we do not have any control about what happens in the universe, and you exemplified with the beginning of it and the process that happen with phisical things then.
I can infer from this that no matter how seriously we treat science and start from it to explain things, in the end the universe will be laughing at our futil attempt.

You really made me think with this man, I really apreciate that

Mariana Soffer said...

Lucy in the Sky
As I said somehwere before this comment:
I think you need an artistic inspiration to start a new scientific thing, and then you need to deal with that inspiration or idea in a rational way, which is of course done by the brain.

I have the same doubts as you regarding understanding how "the muse functions", I think that part should be left unstudied by
neuroscientists, because it will take away the magic, and on top of that it is highly probable that they never understand it,
cause science can not even represent the most simple inspiration, the terrenal event I meant.

Thank you very much for all you beautifull compliments, and your interesting thoughts that you generously share

foam said...

art is science, math, feeling, intuition, literature, art is contained in the concept of 0 as well as infinity ...

Mariana Soffer said...

I should have imagined that being made of that material, and drinking bear all the time will eventually alter you brain. But for good, my friend towards a great place.

I think you just understood the world, saw how things are and work, and transported yourself to the future for a short period of time. It is exactely like you said it, I have nothing to add.

Thanks a lot my friend

Lane Savant said...

Shitty snowflakes or beautiful snowflakes, "we are what we is"

Lane Savant said...

The universe is laughing now.
Laugh with it or not, as you will.

kj said...

wow, is this interesting, mariana. i come here to learn, and i am never disappointed.

to be closed to learning from art is a great loss, as far as i'm concerned. i agree with lucy in the sky: inspiration, imagination, intuition: all of these cannot be measured but they cannot be dismissed.

i think it was albert einstein who said, 'not everything that matters can be counted, and not everything that can be counted matters."

my opinion is the best society is one where the artist and the scientist are equally revered.


Mariana Soffer said...

Lane Savant
You are becominga dadaist my friend, I have that same impulse and also act on it many times and in many ways.
Next I will reply your intersting second comment my friend

Klatuu o embuçado said...

«Professor Zeki thinks that neuroscientist have anything to teach the humanist or the artist, that Cezanne's drawing would improve by knowing how the brain works.» LOL!!! And what about the mad genius brain of Van Gogh???

P. S. Ease up with fine tunes and poetry in O Bar do Ossian... :)=

Mariana Soffer said...

Lane savant
I will laugh depending what it is lauguing about.
Ironiy is a sadness that can not be cried and therefore needs to be express with a laugh or smile.
If that is what is behind it s life I prefer to cry and be sad for a while. I suspect this is the case, because otherwise it will share what is out there to smile about.

I loved those words, there are pretty interesting my friend.

Mariana Soffer said...

I am glad that so far at least I did not disapoint one of the persons that I respect, thanks for what you said anyway.

I agree with that too. So we have a 3 girls agreen on this intersting and complicated subject. I like Professor Z a lot because he emphasizes strongly on the possibilities that artist provide to scientist if they want to learn from them.

You are right it was him who said that marvelous phrase (which expresses really well the point your comment wants to present). Here is another one that aplies also to this "“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” -Einstein

I like your last sentence, it is true, but I am wondering if we are not missing some other people who also deserve the same respect.

Thanks a lot for your great comments and visit
love for you my friend

Mariana Soffer said...

Klatuu o embuçado
You did not understood very well what he said, I am going to quote it here so you see what I mean:
"neurscoientist have a great deal to learn from artist, but don't have that much to teach them."
I do not undersatnd exactely what you mean about my comments about ossian texts in his blog, please explain by email or comment if you can, I think you mean that I should not dig so deeper or something like that.

Thanks a lot for stepping by and participating of this interesting discussion with the other commenters.

Bu the way van gogh is beyond words. Nothing to say, silence is best. Everything else would be diminishing of too limited.

Take care friend and be well

Dave King said...

The problem with evaluating what the brain can offer or achieve, it seems to me, is that it's the brain that must do the evaluating. Fascinating post, though. A real thought-provoker.

Renee said...

You know so much dear friend.

Love Renee xoxo

Klatuu o embuçado said...

I did, and I quoted also (which artist gives a f... of what scientists think - right or wrong - about the work of art??)

None, just was inviting you to go to O Bar do Ossian read Allen Ginsberg and listen some 60's oldies.


Anonymous said...

I'm tired honey, so in all honesty, I skipped most of the 56!!! comments. *PAs eyes start rolling*

I'll just tread lightly (as always) because I seem to (always) say something dumb or that ruffles someone's pigeon's or chicken's feathers.

I'll still probably say something ridiculous here.

Caveat: Apart from the above, this may make no goddamn sense. Oh, you see? I'm already not starting off so well. But I did see Uncle Tree up there! Hi, Uncle Tree! *laughing*

You know me. I'm neuro geek but I'm artsy (or try to be) as well. Thus, a kind of interesting take on this post. It made me kind of go...huh. Although, all of your posts make me go "huh," but this one actually made me think I understood something about it. *giggles*

I'm going to toss in the "individual" card. Maybe someone else already did but not from my perspective?

You're combining two things that are subjective (yes, I saw that one word up there *laughing*) and as such, this as a concept can become rather convoluted. At least to me.

Neurologically? Mapping, reaction, perception...all different for us all and I do understand what you do and what you are getting at...where you are "head"ed? Still, everyone may "see" or something...differently?

As far as "creating art?" Good lord! OMG! It can come from your brain...neurologically or...well, I have "no clue."

Sorry, a bit of a neurological joke there. Maybe a really bad one. Yes.

I'm starting to lose where I was going. Again, you know I am such a brain geek.

Ah, yes.

I wanted to bring my diagnoses into this! I am not a NT. So I may perceive the world differently. It's still "brain oriented" but not completely for me. I have two Developmental Disorders that don't necessarily (yet?) have anything to do with neurochemistry. The ADD...okay, meds for that but there are no meds or anything you "can do" regarding the Asperger's.

And they are getting closer and closer to the genetic connection. Thank god! I will not put up with any more bullshit vaccine talk! Sorry, tangent.

So, that's kind of the "individual" card I was tossing out to you. Both in terms of brains, humans...we're all different? You can't pack us all into too tight of boxes and yet...somewhat larger boxes can or might work.

OMG. I'm making another stoopid comment again, right?

Blame my "neurochemistry," sweetheart.

Big hugs and kisses,

Mariana Soffer said...

Dave King
Very interesting what you say, so is kind of self-referecial, like the idea have of ourself, therefore it is bias, completely, and It is impossible to make it totally objective. I love meta-level sentences such as "the brain explorint the brain"
I am really flatter for the nice things you said about me, thank you very much indeed

Hope you are doing well yourself (speaking about self reference)

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot, but you are as smart as I. Maybe you just have more expertice in other areas, that s it. you should just start making comments about things you do not know much, do them as a game, and tha will help you learn about them.

Have a great time beautifully souled woman.

Mariana Soffer said...

Klatuu o embuçado
Well I do care about what is going on between science and art, specially between the interesting scientic guys and the real talented artists.
But nevermind not everybody has to like the same stuff.

Ou I get what you said to me, thanks you for inviting me, I already did go indeed amazing I love alan, just to begin with. Anyway I have to go again soon indeed, cause I did not have enough time to write or enjoy what he did.

Thanks for letting me know, cheer to you and your soul

Mariana Soffer said...

I am happy you liked the idea and related a little to it in your thoughts.

I am tired to, I have barely slept, but is nice to see you here anyway.

Comments where made for made half of them in a ridiculous way.

Uncle tree Is one of the best human beings I have met.

Sorry I did not get the joke. Neither what you meant by NT.

It is true that we are all different, but I belive we all have our similarities as well.

It was not that stupid or lame your comment, chill out, you are doing great, besides how are you going to learn you you do not read and participate. Who said you should be Einstein?

You really take care of yourself

Anonymous said...

The "I have no clue," joke was so stupid. Having "a clue" means that you "understand" and since this was all about trying to understand things? Again, it was awful.

I can make much better jokes.

NT? That stands for Neurotypical. The term was started in the Asperger's/Autistic Community as someone without the Developmental Disorder.

Now, though, is used basically everywhere to apply to anyone without a psych. dx.

Klatuu o embuçado said...

Men of science start «thinking» art and end burning books... They have the tendency to understand everything from the concepts of right and wrong, true and false: all them are moralists! - remember Plato; and all that «big nazi scientists»...


P. S. Let my brain be! JAJAJAJAJAJA!!!

Mariana Soffer said...

The nature of truth in math (like in any science)is a difficult philosophical problem. Truth in art is perhaps even more problematic. But one lesson we have learned from Doug Lenat’s AM (Automated Mathematician) is that interestingness is arguably more important than truth. It is easy to write a program that generates an endless stream of mathematical truths (1+1 = 2, 1+2 = 3, 1+3 = 4, …); it is much harder to write a program that generates an endless stream of interesting mathematical truths. In this respect, art is much like math: It is much harder to make interesting art than to make true art. In both art and math, truth is (arguably) required for interestingness, but interestingness is more interesting than truth. (Computers can generate art, but is it interesting art?). I do not consider the killing of millons of people and interesting thing to do.

If you want to check more ideas regarding math, true, science and art check the critic of my post at:

Cheers to you, sorry but i can t help bothering your neurons, besides you kind of got me started with it.

Klatuu o embuçado said...

My dear, let me tell you something: after university I understood science... once, running naked at night in a forest, roaring. All wisdom is error: look around...

Mariana Soffer said...

Klatuu o embuçado
You are so funny man, but indeed when I tend to understand science more than before is when I go running and my mind change of state, it is more relaxed and open, like if I am on drugs.

I try not to think that all wisdom is error, maybe scintific fanatism is, but if I do that my profession has no mean, but I can play with the concept and therefore be less constrained than most people are about it.

~pi said...

beauty remains as an idea

beauty... what is beuaty, Mariana?

it´s the most subjective aprehension of real... science can be beauty too, not far away from art, nothing in science can be opposed to beauty, and yet, science can be uggly and monstruous... look at the animal experiments!!!!
for me, is the apocalyptical abomination!! i repudiate it with all my "being"!!

] art and beauty and brain...

i simply

admire your courage to touch

such themes,,,

you re a very very perceptive


courageous girl!! :)

many kisses


Mariana Soffer said...

What an interesting, complex and nice post you made here, I liked it a lot.

Beauty, oh my how can you define, although is a word for it, I do not tihnk it captures much about that. I really do not know what it is but If I has to guess it can be a buttefly moving it s wings, it can be the transparent water of the river flowing endlesly, it can also be a man made think like art, like a poem by nari, electroncally made.

I agree that science is a really dangerous thing, but it just just a tool, a very powerfull one indeed, if you blame it on to it, it would be like blame it on the knifes that where used to kill people and not to cut the meat to eat, It is just a tool with a theory underneath, the problem is what people use it for, how do they aply it in the real world, for good or bad deeds. The problem could be presented dough with the real fanatics of science, those as any other fanatics can be a danger to society.

Thank you very much for the compliments for me, but to tell you the truth I am not brave, it is just that I am humble enough to accept I am nor sure about those things, so I want to share my uncertainties with other friends, and discuss about those things.

Love my friend.

yava said...

I do art and i really enjoyed your post. For me, art is more emotional learning and getting closer to my true self while scientific knowledge and biologically neurally acquired knowledge is a different way of getting to my true self and getting wiser. I would put it this way: art enables people to learn by heart what reaches us through sensory, audial, and visual channels and cannot be defined by brain (like the same concept of beauty and how to measure it or universalize..) Brain makes sense and gives us outlines. Hope I make sense :)

Mariana Soffer said...

I am happy you liked it.
I think it is very interesting what you say, that art is more related to emotional learning, I agree very clever my friend. I guess you can disconect the emotional part of yourself to learn science, at least I fell that happens in myself.
I do not know If I understand what you mean about art enabling us to learn by hart. I do not get that.
I would say that we learn art following our instincts more than our rational part.
I agree that it reaches trough that channels.
Regrading the fact that it can not be defined by the brain, I am not sure, maybe a part can, maybe a part is universal in all of us, but there certainly is an important part that is impossible to be defined.

Thank you very much for stepping by

Id it is said...

'Beauty is truth, and truth beauty' is a famous quote which poetically constructs a simple truth that the artist arrived at when he observed the 'Grecian Urn'. Observation, reception, comprehension, and application are perhaps a few steps the artist takes before he applies and produces; obviously not every 'observation' results in a 'produce' but all the observations add to the repertoire of the artist to give him a greater ability to receive and comprehend and apply. Science and Art are not as different as we make them out to be since both go through the four steps before they create/produce
Great post.

Mariana Soffer said...

id it is
Nice quote, very interesting.
When you talk about how artist function I would add intuition, exploration and the need to express something.
I agree with the statement that they are not that different for example when considering the math sciences we can observe that:
Art is a form of communication between the artist and the audience. Creative art pushes the boundaries of that communication and extends the language of art. Creative math extends the language of mathematics. In both cases, language evolves, communication evolves, new metaphors evolve (are created, are discovered).

Thanks a lot for your interesting comment.