[ISEA2011] Paper: Tina M. Gonsalves – Eliciting Compassion: An artist in Residency at the Max Planck Institute


This paper will discuss my A.I.R, funded by the Australia Council’s inter arts board, at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive & Brain Science in Leipzig, a prestigious neuroscience research center in Germany where I will be working with the director of the social neuroscience lab, Prof. Tania Singer (research area: role of trust, compassion and altruism in our lives). Among other renowned scientists, Singer also works with the Dalia Lama and his close circle exploring the biological effects of compassion meditation on the brain and body. The residency will follow the developments of longitudinal studies on the effects of compassion training on brain, health and behavior. Singer has been awarded a large European Research Council Grant (ERC): healthy individuals will receive extensive training over one year by professional instructors in empathy and compassion enhancing techniques. I will be immersed in Singer’s group, strategizing the best ways to monitor, document and elicit the psycho-physiological effects of this training using a range of methods (Video capture, sound capture, interviews, biopsychological markers, psychological and behavioral tests, 3T and 7T MRI scanners).

This is an important step in my work. Over the last five years, I have been studying social emotions such as empathy, mimicry, and emotional contagion via cross disciplinary and collaborative methods, creating psycho-physiological interactive art experiences, short films, papers and scientific visual databases. This residency will lead to a deep understanding of compassion and its associated human behaviors while incorporating a more holistic approach to knowledge (modern science and Buddhism). Compassion is a complex emotion as it requires a time investment: It requires a desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another.

The presentation/paper will be structured as follows: I will discuss the research of myself and Dr Singer, then discuss the artworks being produced and how they may work with in Dr Singers research remits. I will then discuss future works and collaborations.

  • Tina M. Gonsalves. My work has always explored aspects of the intimacies and vulnerabilities of being human. Most of us go through life hiding our wounds and vulnerabilities, or trying as best we can to conceal them. I look to the ways art, science and technology can converge to allow us to form a more intimate relationship with our own bodies. In the past I have explored the emotional signatures pulse, sweat movement (Feel Series2005/07), emotional intonation of voice (Medulla Intimata 2004) as agency for interactive artworks, to highlight the nuances of emotions and its importance in our lives. With Chameleon (2008/2009), an aim was to investigate the social role played by the unspoken language of emotional contagion. My current residency with the social neuroscience group at Max Planck Institute in Leipzig explores compassion. Together we are developing tools that can cultivate compassion and elicit awareness (Nowness Project 2010 – 2013 developed with Nokia Research Center, Finland). I am about to embark on an Asialink Residency, based in Beijing at Platform China. I will be exploring Chinese nuances of emotional expression, and how it may be impacted by globalization. tinagonsalves.com  Video: Chameleon Project at Fabrica

Full text (PDF) p. 997-1003