Fellow experimenters in art and science part I
Since Chain Reaction! got underway, several people have sent links to other projects around the world.
Do You Mind? is a New Zealand collaboration based on neuroscience (thanks, Janet Young!). Its rationale is pretty much the opposite to ours; rather than demystifying science for artists, it’s trying to re-inject a sense of mystery into the scientists.
I enjoy a sense of mystery as much as the next person, but I have to confess by being frustrated at how this ambition caused the project to stop a little short. The researchers conclude that their project ‘increased awareness of current neuroscience research’ – which is great: but awareness is not necessarily empowerment. In this context quite the reverse, in fact.
Current controversies about neurorealism demand that the public be able to move beyond an awestruck response when confronted with these types of images. These images, now so prevalent, have been shown to bamboozle audiences into accepting scientific claims when shown in conjunction with them. This worked when the claim was totally unconnected to the image, or when patently ridiculous, such as the claim that ability in mathematics is positively correlated with watching TV.
Images of the brain are too easily mystifying – what we need is less mystery, and more information about how and why scientists make these pictures – what they get from them – and who else is using them, and why.