an introduction to the institute
The great interest in the field which we have called neuroesthetics, which seeks to establish the biological and neurobiological foundations of aesthetic experience, has prompted us to establish the institute of neuroesthetics. This institute, the first of its kind in the world, is attached to the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology (Vislab) at University College London, and will be based partly here and partly in Berkeley, California.
Many artists have been inspired by scientific investigations and some have undertaken their own. Leonardo is a shining example and others have included Piero della Francesca, Brunelleschi, Delacroix, Seurat, Duchamp, and Mondrian. Much of the correspondence received by us is from artists who want to learn about the new techniques scientists have to study the brain, and the insights these techniques have given us into perception and behaviour. Often the artists then use their new knowledge to create artworks.
The aims of the institute are:
- to further the study of the creative process as a manifestation of the functions and functioning of the brain;
- to study the biological foundations of aesthetics;
- to provide a forum for artists to keep abreast of recent developments in areas of visual research and technological developments that interest them
- to instil among neurobiologists the virtues of using the products of art to study the organization of the brain;
- to promote the importance of learning more about the brain when approaching topics such as art, morality, religion, the law and public affairs in general, to as wide an audience as possible. Indeed, to enlarge public awareness of what a central role research on the brain has in understanding human activity in many areas that affect one's daily life.
Over the past few years Vislab has contributed to neuroesthetics by exploring visual art in relation to the known physiology of the visual brain.
Underlying the approach are three suppositions:
- that all visual art must obey the laws of the visual brain, whether in conception or in execution or in appreciation;
- that visual art has an overall function which is an extension of the function of the visual brain, to acquire knowledge;
- that artists are, in a sense, neurologists who study the capacities of the visual brain with techniques that are unique to them.