in art and science
What is the brain: control centre, supercomputer, locus of the self? One thing is certain: it is one of the last great mysteries of the human body. Brain research is constantly delivering new insights, but it also continues to face a great many unresolved questions. Not least because of this, the human brain inspires a wealth of speculation and hypotheses – not only on the part of scientists but also among artists. Uncharted territory offers space for fictions and fantasies as well as for bold theories. «If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t.»Emerson Pugh, 1977
In this exhibition, art, cultural history and science converge to create an intriguingly multifaceted panorama. In addition to brain research and neurology, philosophy, religion, the history of medicine and psychology have their say. The interdisciplinary dialogue constitutes a deliberate experiment with the aim of approaching the brain from different directions.
In five sections, each devoted to a complex question, the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey through the cultural history and scientific exploration of the brain. The seemingly simple first question, ‘What is in my head?’, probes the anatomy of the brain. The second question, ‘How do I envision the processes of the brain?’, asks about the cognitive functions and active processes in the brain. The third question is of a more philosophical nature, ‘Are my body and I the same thing? The dualistic idea of our soul as a separate entity that is detached from the body persists doggedly. Modern brain research prefers to speak of ‘consciousness’ instead and considers mental processes as inseparable from physical ones. The interplay between body and mind is evident in the function of our senses. The fourth question is therefore, ‘What do I make of the world?’ How does the world enter our heads and how reliable are our perception and memory? In conclusion, the fifth question of the exhibition is, ‘Should I optimise my brain?’ Today, implants in the brain are helping to alleviate symptoms of illness. But what will the human being of the future look like? Artistic visions in response to this question are often inspired by the latest research. Much of it remains pure fantasy, but it stimulates interesting thoughts. For the question of what humanity might become is preceded by a much more fundamental, ethical consideration: What is it that makes us human?
Click here for the exhibition: The brain in art and science