Books and Arts

Nature 451, 772 (14 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/451772a; Published online 13 February 2008

Festival: Neural networking in Manhattan

Giovanni Frazzetto1

ARTS REVIEWED: Brainwave festival

New York city will be criss-crossed this spring by a net of brainy ideas. More than a hundred public events will link neuroscience with art, music and meditation in the city's Brainwave festival, which runs until June.

The metropolitan mix gives the festival its peculiar flavour. Musician Lou Reed introduces and discusses his latest compositions about meditation. Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux examines sources of fear, and asks how Buddhist practitioners seek to master this emotion, before dashing off to play guitar in his band, The Amygdaloids.

FestivalNeural networking in Manhattan

The festival's contemporary art show, Brainwave: Common Senses, opens this month at the cultural centre Exit Art. Cleverly curated, it features images inspired by brain anatomy and function, as well as representations of aspects of consciousness, cognition and memory. The works on show address new technologies of neuroscience and the joint outputs of artists and scientists who have puzzled together over the workings of the brain.

Suzanne Anker extrapolates neurological processes from images of Rorschach tests and brain scans, and renders them into three-dimensional sculptures that are suggestive of bones, sea creatures and body parts. Levels of cognition and perception are represented in a multisensory and interactive installation by artist collective SERU.

Devorah Sperber's apparently random arrangement of 875 spools of coloured thread (pictured) coalesces into a replica of Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa when observed through a small sphere that mimics the human eye.

All this attention may be symptomatic of the rise of a 'neuroculture', in which neuroscientific understanding becomes part of our daily life. However, some fear that if we gain too much scientific knowledge about how the brain accomplishes creative tasks or causes emotions then it will lead to disenchantment. Brainwave seeks to show that this need not be the case.

Brainwave festival events run across New York City until June (http://www.brainwavenyc.org). Brainwave: Common Senses runs from 16 February to 19 April at Exit Art, New York city (http://www.exitart.org).

  1. Giovanni Frazzetto is a Society in Science Branco Weiss fellow at the London School of Economics, and is at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.