Cognitive Science and the Neuro-Fetish
In the 1970s, a spate of disciplines began to attach the prefix “Neuro” to their activities. Psychologists became cognitive neuroscientists, even as computer scientists, physicists, chemical engineers, and medical doctors were collected under the interdisciplinary rubric of a new and burgeoning field – Neuroscience. From this starting point other disciplines gathered new “neuro” wings, particularly neuroeconomics (Kahneman) and neuroaesthetics (Ramachandran). In this talk, I begin with a crystallizing image from monkey research into the visual system, and contrast it to the holism of the Weimar gestalt psychologists whose work it replaced. Discussing the powerful impact in art theory and practice of figures such as Rudolf Arnheim, Ernst Gombrich, and Anton Ehrenzweig in the 1940s-60s, and the loss of that conversation after the twin revolutions of computation and microbiology, I’ll revive a particular film experiment by Austrian expat Fritz Heider to discuss the contemporary pressures on things Neuro today.
Caroline Jones is Professor of Architecture at MIT and Director of the Program in History, Theory and Criticism. A filmmaker as well as art historian, she specializes in modern and contemporary art, with a particular focus on its technological modes of production, distribution, and reception. Jones’ exhibits and/or films have been shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, the Hara Museum Tokyo, the Boston University Art Gallery, and MIT’s List Visual Art Center, among other venues. She is the author of several award-winning books in the field, including Bay Area Figurative Art, 1950-1965 (1990); Machine in the Studio: Constructing the Postwar American Artist (1996); and Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (2005). Jones’s ongoing research interests include globalism, the agency of the artist, and new media art, the focus of her latest book The Global Work of Art (2016).