Art, Design and Neuroscience
Camberwell College of Arts & Oxford University
Shared Language is an experiment in teaching and learning at the meeting point of art, design and neuroscience by Sigune Hamann and Jonathan Kearney, Camberwell College of Arts, in collaboration with neuroscientists at Oxford University.
Our perception is highly limited; we derive only a few elements/objects/items from the environment/surroundings at each moment, which we stitch together into cohesion and carry forward into the fabric of our cognition. In counterpoint, our perception is highly adaptive, picking out the elements that matter to us in a given situation. This selective guidance of perception, which we call ‘attention’, involves signals from our goals, expectations, memories, motivations, and emotions proactively and dynamically shaping what we come to perceive and remember.
When we arrange images of different objects – playing cards, for example – on a table we are free to modify constantly their configuration. We can make piles or constellations. We can discover new analogies, new trajectories of thought. By modifying the order, we can arrange things so that images take position.
The table is not made for definitely classifying, for exhaustively making an inventory, or for cataloguing once and for all - as in a dictionary, archive or encyclopaedia – but instead for gathering elements or parcelling out the world, while respecting it’s multiplicity and its heterogeneity – and for giving a legibility to the underlying relations.
We apply methods of juxtaposition and suspension: Juxtaposition of images, ideas, projects, disciplines and levels of study and suspension defined as a relative motion between two positions which is independent and bi-directional, as fluid negotiations, working with an open/suspended attitude and holding back judgements.
The process from the start was interesting in that I felt, maybe unnecessarily, that I might have to explain what I do slightly differently than when speaking to others within our own course. The actual process showed that we used a lot of the same language to describe very different things, particularly when talking about things like association and connection.
Told my ‘story’ in different ways over the 7or 8 times. I noticed more connections in the images I showed. Fascinating how the connections made with others were sometimes close and sometimes quite distant even though mostly I was talking with art & design students. Most of the graphic design student images were very text based
It was great to meet people who study a completely different discipline and still find a huge amount of common ground and shared interests. I liked the use of images as shared communication and I thought it was interesting that the art students perceived some interesting things in our science images that I wouldn’t necessarily have noticed. I also felt like I gained a new perspective on the images we provided after having worked with them in a different way.
The practical / hands on process felt like the differences in our approaches that we’d identified on the last trip weren’t quite so noticeable or there at all, but the ideas and triggers that came throughout the process opened up interesting conversations where we could share knowledge of our own practices and interests.
Shared Language was devised by the artists Sigune Hamann and Jonathan Kearney in 2017/2018 as a series of workshops with art, design and neuroscience students to test and encourage discourse across disciplines.
The project is part of Sigune’s residency in Experimental Psychology at Oxford University working with neuroscientist Prof Kia Nobre in perception and attention. As part of her research she explores how the playful experimental treatment and physical handling and viewing of images can test and shift our perception of ourselves relating to others.
Shared Language developed in exchange through many conversations between Sigune and Jonathan who has extensive experience of innovative learning models and experiments. having run a fully blended studio and online fine art masters course since 2004.
We apply methods of juxtaposition and suspension in short playful one to one introductions and workshop experiments: using juxtaposed images, ideas, projects, disciplines and levels of study that participants bring to the project. The mode of suspension is defined as a relative motion between two positions which is independent and bi-directional, as fluid negotiation, working with an open/suspended attitude and holding back judgement.
Students listened to each other’s research and practice. During these 10 minute conversations they displayed and arranged images of their work on a cardboard sheet balanced jointly on their knees. In science presentations and MRI experiments at Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity the artists got a sense of the process of the scientists working with images. The conversations developed into collaborations in the art college darkroom and printmaking workshops. Making etchings and photograms from scientific imagery they explored material aspects of the brain and form and meaning arising through their exchanges.
Students ranged from BA, MA, PhD to early career researchers.
Shared language is a project with art, design and neuroscience students by the artists Sigune Hamann, Reader in Art and Media Practice and Jonathan Kearney, Postgraduate Programme Director and Course Leader MA Fine Art Digital at Camberwell College of Arts. Shared language is part of Sigune's residency in Experimental Psychology in collaboration with neuroscientist Prof Kia Nobre, Oxford University. The project is coordinated with the Wellcome Trust Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging public engagement ambassador, Naiara Demnitz and is funded through a Teaching and Learning Fund Award, University of the Arts London.
Science presentations neuroscience of vision, language and the motor system, and the sensorimotor system Betina Ip, Emily Connally and Daan Wesselink
Wellcome Trust Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging public engagement ambassador
Funded by the Teaching and Learning Exchange UAL 2017
Supported by the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity (OHBA)