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Introduction to the Conference of Neuroaesthetics

Good morning everyone, I would like to welcome you to Goldsmith’s College and our conference on Neuroaesthetics. This conference is the last of four conferences held here since January, the others being ‘A Phantom Limb Phenomena: Its Aesthetic, Cultural and Philosophical Implications’,  ‘Creative Evolution’, and ‘Creativity and Cognition’. This conference looks at the new and emerging field of Neuroaesthetics—what it is, what it is doing and where it is going. In my opinion, artists have always been implicitly interested in vision, audition, movement, language, perception, cognition, consciousness and now sampling, plasticity, and synchronicity. Pioneers like Marcel Duchamp, Richard Hamilton, Bridget Riley, Joseph Kosuth, and Gary Hill have been joined by contemporary artists like Spencer Finch, Olafur Elliason, Rodney Graham, Paul Miller just to name a few. Some of them are going to be speaking here. Each is applying methods and apparatuses that emerge out of the unique cultural, historical, psychological, sociologic, economic, and spiritual relations which define the history of art and  in which they are embedded to create new stories, new ways of thinking which produce unique and evolving forms of the imagination and creativity.

In the past ten years there has been an avalanche of information in the popular press concerning neuroscience. It seems one does not open the news paper without being confronted by some story about something to do with the brain and the nervous system, diseases, accidents, discoveries, new drugs and recently, new art. It is my opinion that it is this accessibility, attention to the brain and it’s epiphenomena that have fueled the inspiration of Neuroaesthetics. As co-founder of artbrain.org, which shows the Net-Space Gallery and the Journal of Neuroaesthetics since 1997, I’m amazed by the amount of art, music, writing, films, and architecture that I come into contact with which interface with neuroscience both implicitly and explicitly. This conference is a very focused vision, as I felt it was important to propose a clear notion for all of you of what I felt the state of this field is today. This conference has a very cultural focus, for instance one of the titles of the session is ‘The Biopolitical Systems in the Cultured Brain’, and with the exception of Marcos Novak, does not include the new exciting new artworks concerned with new media, or many intriguing works by neuroscientists themselves who are tiptoeing into this domain. Daniel Glazer and Beau Lotto may give us a glimpse of their research. I feel that these fields of research, especially those that deal with artificial intelligence, are producing new potential for understanding the dynamic and virtual issues concerning the brain and will become more important in the future as these new and all-pervasive systems become us…or we become them.

Any quick look at our brain will test my sympathy with these other forms of production. But no conference can be all things to all people. I felt that given the context of Goldsmiths College, this emphasis on the interface of culture and art practice was more relevant. Before letting the conference speak for itself, I would like to thank Goldsmiths College for hosting this conference and the Arts Council for funding it, and thank you all for coming. I would like to introduce Charlie Gere, who will introduce the first session entitled ‘First Dialectic: Edges of the Envelope’ and who along with Bronac Ferran  and Scott Lash provided valuable assistance without all of which this would not have happened. Charlie Gere is the reader in new media research at the Institute of Cultural Research at Lancaster University, chair of Computers and the History of Art and the Director of Computer Arts Contacts Histories. He is co-author with sibling and Historian of Science, Cathy Gere, of a special issue of ‘Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C’, ‘Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomendical Sciences on Brain in the Vats’ and author of ‘Digital Culture,’ Reaction Books, and is currently undertaking research into the relation between art and speed for the early nineteenth century up to the present day to be published as ‘Art, Time and Technology’ by Burg in 2005. Thank you.