Bailey, Rowan (2016) Brain Imaging and Sculptural Plasticity. In: 7th International Conference on New Materialism: Performing Situated Knowledges: Space, Time, Vulnerablity, 21st - 23rd September 2016, Warsaw. (Unpublished)

This article proposes to explore, through a series of intra-connected examples drawn from art and culture, an alternative imaging of brain plasticity. Taking influence from current discourses on the brainbody phenomenon (Schmitz and Hoppner, 2014; Schmitz, 2015, Pitts-Taylor, 2016), a diffractive methodology of reading will be explored through the mediations of the brain in culture, that is, through specific curatorial and artistic mechanisms which have sought to think the historical and contemporary technologies and apparatuses of neuroscience otherwise.

There are five key examples that help to situate the phenomenon of plasticity as the reception, production and annihilation of form in the worlds of art and culture, with the aim of revisiting the brain image from out of these spaces. The first presents a scientific-anthropological account of how PET scanning works, in particular, how a brain image is constructed from the technical and scientific processes involved. This provides a particular way of understanding the brain-as-image. The second provides a comparative analysis between different types of brain culture within exhibition environments. This draws upon the discourses of exchange between cultural artefacts, neuroscience and learning. The third example looks to the curatorial strategies deployed by Caroyln Christov-Bakargiev, in particular, the form iterations generated out of dOCUMENTA (13) (2012) and the 14th Istanbul Biennial SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms (5 September-1 November 2015). These international exhibitions engage with a diffractive methodology of reading through the intra-active exchanges between art, neuroscience and neuroaesthetics in particular. The fourth example explores a recent film by Ursula Biemann entitled Twenty One Percent (2016). This is a return to the brainbody phenomenon and to the articulations of agential matter through the chemical compound structure of the body and its intra-celestial relationship to the universe. Biemann’s video essay will be considered as a specific type of diffractive reading which works inside the body. The final example makes a return to brain imaging technology in the context of The Human Connectome Project, to the ways in which a reading of this brain – as a collective speculative fiction of newly discovered regions – might think neuronal imaging otherwise, beyond the formal necessity of the brain imaging environment and into the spaces of our embodied imaginations. These are projects which have sought to explore the intersections between art and science, and which lend themselves to a reading that is entangled with differing perspectives and disciplines.

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