The Brain Art Project is on a mission. They intend to show the world why art is just as important to a healthy neural network as memory games, diet, or exercise. About My Brain’s annual Brain Art Project is an interactive art exhibition and awards gala from Down Under showing how neuroscience is part of daily life. Promoted as ‘neuroscience for everyone’, the exhibition is quickly becoming one of Australia’s largest public events.
Moving away from the medical and academic domains, the Brain Art Project takes neuroscience into the realm of play. The event’s focus could shift the spotlight to the power of art on the brain; some that other brain health institutions have neglected in recent years.
Founded by mother and daughter team Silvia and Relmi Damiano in 2010, the initiative has grown into a multitude of brain-themed outposts for all ages. It includes the Brain Art Exhibition, a Female Neuroleadership project, game development, and a kid’s book.
In August, InteraXon spoke with Silvia and Relmi about the challenges of converging disciplines; why art is a great gateway to neuroscience, and how artistic practices could help bridge a knowledge gap in the public space
A great About My Brain demo video talks about your mission to make sense of the brain “and all the myths surrounding it”. What are some of the most bizarre brain myths you’ve encountered (and even debunked) through your work?
There are many myths that, in general, are repeated continually and limit people and their potential. There are two of them which are quite common:
Many people say “I am not creative”, as if creativity was something that only belongs to people who are artistic. Even if we prefer analysis and logic, the creative thinking that is required to solve a problem or fix a machine emerges from the “insight” moments we all experience on a frequent basis.
The second one is that emotions are something we can leave at the door when we go to work. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nowadays, there is so much research confirming that emotions influence our decisions, behavior and performance.
People in leadership positions need to be supportive of emotional intelligence & brain education, as understanding our own and others’ emotions and managing them effectively, underpins good leadership.
Many scientists are also known for their accomplishments in the fine arts, yet neuroscience and art are assumed to have little in common. What do you find are some of the benefits with using art as a way to introduce people to the sciences?
One of the most influential people who have inspired us to bridge the gap between science and art is Dr. Eric Kandel, an American neuropsychiatrist who was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons.
Since winning the Prize 10 years ago, he has focused on writing about art and the convergence of both disciplines i.e. art and science. Like him, there are others who consider that art expression is an important product of the functioning of our brains.
Encouraging and fostering art as a medium of expression and from our perspective, it is as important as studying other subjects. There is no such separation inside our brains. Art is not less valuable than science or business, and using this way of expressing a scientific finding makes science more appealing to a broader segment of the population, therefore people are more receptive to paying attention to the important information that is emerging from the laboratories around the world.
Just as human experiences can manifest in works of art and narrative, brain computer interfaces look at and amplify the first person conscious lived experience. We see new plug-in-play applications being released frequently from this space and wearable devices are becoming more ubiquitous. This study of the ‘science of consciousness’ has been a transformative shift. How could events like The Brain Art Project bridge this disciplinary divide between neuroscience and narrative practices?
The Brain Art Project becomes the story and the space for anyone to express themselves and their ideas about life pleasure and the brain. Undoubtedly, this process encourages self-reflection which is the beginning of any personal transformation and the rise of consciousness.
The Brain Art Project become the possibility, the trigger or even the excuse to entice the public to think about their brain, to grab any medium they like, and through the action required to put together a piece of work, this will hopefully allow them to think about what is possible for them and their brains.
We are motivated by engaging the community and hold the mirror for humanity as a whole, and to demystify the fact that “art is only for a selected group”. There will always be people who are talented in any discipline. Not everybody can go to the Olympics but it does not preclude us from practicing sports to feel good about ourselves. The same applies for art. Art awakens dormant brain circuits in our brains, relaxes the mind and enhances self-knowing. All of these are essential for better living, work optimization and improved relationships.
What have been some of your favourite submissions and highlights since The Brain Art Project was founded?
A lot of submissions have been quite introspective and it has been exciting to see so many participants learn valuable insights from this initiative, some have even said they have really discovered themselves through creating their piece.
Last year we had a group of high school students attend the exhibition, it was so rewarding to have young people interested in both participating in the competition and attend the show.
Here is a video of what happened last year and some of our highlights.
The Brain Art Project’s annual art exhibition and award gala happens October 19th and 20th, in the Jane Foss Russell Plaza, University of Sydney in Australia