Neuroarthistory

by F.

From a University of East Anglia press release:

“The most interesting aspect of neuroarthistory is the way it enables us to get inside the minds of people who either could not or did not write about their work,” said Prof Onions. “We can understand much about the visual and motor preferences of people separated from us by thousands of miles or thousands of years.” Working alongside Prof Semir Zeki FRS of University College London, one of the leading neuroscientists in the field of the visual brain and the founder of neuroesthetics, Prof Onians will now apply his findings to a series of case studies, from prehistory to the present, in a book entitled Neuroarthistory. If the approach is successful this will be the foundation stone of a new discipline.

Sounds cool. But what can this new discipline explain?

Neuroarthistory can…explain why Florentine painters made more use of line and Venetian painters more of colour. The reason is that ‘neural plasticity’ ensured that passive exposure to different natural and manmade environments caused the formation of different visual preferences.

Uh… WHAT? That’s basically saying, “The art in Venice was different because the artists in Venice were looking at different stuff than those in Florence were.” Thanks for that breakthrough. But wait, there’s more:

Similarly, the new discipline reveals that European artists such as Leonardo stood before vertical canvases while Chinese artists sat before flat sheets of silk or paper because ‘mirror neurons’ collectively affect artists’ deportments.

I guess that’s cuz the Chinese don’t have mirror neurons…? I didn’t know that—and I think there are a lot of folks in China that don’t, either. I think something got lost when this press release was translated from English into English.

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