[ISEA2011] Paper: Gordana Novakovic – Plastic brains in the post-digital world


The concept of neuroaesthetics has recently attracted attention, and this paradigm has opened an entirely new area in which both artists and neuroscientists look at the neurobiological basis of creating and experiencing the plastic arts. Mostly working within the scientific concept of the visual brain, neuroaesthetics is strongly focused on vision and static objects. But the area of contemporary artistic practice that neuroaesthetics leaves unexplored is that of multi-sensory experiences within the growing body of process-based arts enabled by digital technologies, in particular interactive art. These art forms, engaging multiple senses, operate in an entirely different conceptual, aesthetic, and methodological framework from traditional plastic arts by substituting objects with processes, and introducing a fundamental shift by replacing a passive observer with an active participant in the act of collective creation in network-based artistic concepts, or in an active role in the final unfolding of an art work in an interactive installation.

A possible new direction could be found within the science of brain plasticity, the study of the ways in which the brain can radically reconfigure itself under certain conditions. This has conclusively shown that the brain can no longer be regarded as a fixed, closed, passive receiver of information from the senses – a mere processor for the information that is controlling our body through a kind of one-way communication. We are now seeing the recognition of growing scientific evidence that the brain is in fact almost nakedly open to external influences, and is capable of rapid and radical change by these insights to be extended and explored in the context of art, perhaps in the ways outlined in my Manifesto for Neuroplastic Arts (Novakovic, 2007). But will neuroscience bring the final answers to all perception-related questions, including those arising from digitally enabled artefacts?

  • Gordana Novakovic. Originally a painter, with 12 solo exhibitions to her credit, Gordana has more than twenty years’ experience of developing and exhibiting large-scale time-based media projects. Her artistic practise and theoretical work that intersects art, science and advanced digital technologies has formed five Cycles: Parallel Worlds, The Shirt of a Happy Man, Infonoise and the ongoing Fugue. A constant mark of her work throughout her experiments with new technologies has been her distinctive method of creating an effective cross-disciplinary framework for the emergence of synergy through collaboration. Gordana exhibited and lectured at leading interdisciplinary festivals and symposia, and artistic and scientific conferences. Her works from the ongoing Fugue Cycle has been widely presented and exhibited. Alongside her artistic practice, in the last six years Gordana has been artist-in-residence and also a Teaching Fellow at Computer Science Department, University College London, where she has founded and curates the Tesla Art and Science Group. She has received a number of international and British academic awards. My current research in the field of art, digital technology and brain science, and my proposal for neuroplastic arts has been first outlined in the paper METROPOLIS: AN EXTREME AND HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT (Mutamorphosis, Prague, 2007). These ideas have been further elaborated in FUGUE AND VARIATIONS ON SOME THEMES IN ART AND SCIENCE, the proceedings EVA 2009. Revised version of the paper is under review for a Leonardo Special Issue   fugueart.com          mutamorphosis.wordpress.com/tag/metropolis   bcs.org/upload/pdf/ewic_ev09_s7paper1.pdf  Video: Fugue clip 1