When the butterflies of the soul flutter their wings

Art, neuroscience and artificial intelligence

27
Nov
2020
24
Apr
2021

What potential can be found in art works that use neurotechnology, robotics or artificial intelligence? What can be evoked by art in relation to changing perceptions surrounding our understanding of the brain and the mind? What does art contribute to perception, thought, the emotions and multiple human and artificial intelligences?

Through art, this exhibition aims to explore some of the expectations and questions raised by neuroscience and artificial intelligence. These fields are currently two of the world’s foremost research areas.

The protagonists of this exhibition are neurons or, to put it poetically, the butterflies of the soul. It is a term coined by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, referring to them as some of the most delicate cells in nature. Even back then, he wondered if the fluttering of their wings would one day clarify the secret of mental life. 1.

Almost a century has passed since Cajal wrote those words. Today, revealing this mystery has become a major challenge facing the international scientific community. While some scientists are dedicated to deciphering the brain's neuronal map from different fields of neuroscience,others are developing new kinds of artificial neural networks from mathematics and computer science.

The current exhibition is centered at the confluence of scientific advances focused on the mapping of our hardware - called the brain- and of artificial intelligence related to cognitive software -called the mind: "When the butterflies of the soul flutter their wings”.

Inspired by Ramon y Cajal's observations, this exhibition brings together art, science, and technology for a wide audience, presenting stories, aspects of the collective psyche, and matters related to our current knowledge of the brain and the mind.

Through videos, photographs, interactive installations and participatory actions, seventeen proposals by fourteen artists and groups from Spain and abroad introduce us to the black box of the brain in order to explore the magnitude and potential of neuronal landscapes, their changing synaptic connections, and their impact on ourselves and our environment. Exploring, in turn, the field of artificial intelligence algorithms, some works allow us to experience different processes and knowledge related to perception, intelligence, learning and memory.

Many of the installations on display are the result of collaboration among artists, engineers, and other scientists from different fields. In the art works, the artists use technologies, data, and computer and neurotechnological applications to give visibility to what happens when the butterflies of the soul beat their wings. Their works reveal processes linked to emotion, thought, and communication. To this end, the artists also work with robotic tools and artificial intelligence algorithms, exploring the impact of their use on our way of conceiving, perceiving, and relating to the world around us.

The exhibition has benefited from the scientific advice and interdisciplinary collaboration of the AIC Artificial Intelligence Centre and the INEUROPA Neuroscience Institute of the University of Oviedo. Its production has been possible thanks to co-financing from the European Union's Creative Europe Programme through two large-scale transnational cooperation projects which are the ARTificial Intelligence Lab, AILAB (https://ars.electronica.art/ailab/en/) and Studiotopia. Science, Art, Anthropocene (https://www.studiotopia.eu/), of which LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial is a part.

1.[1] Full quote: The fact is that, leaving aside the flattery of self-esteem, the garden of neurology offers the researcher captivating shows and incomparable artistic emotions. In it, my aesthetic instincts found full satisfaction at last. Like the entomologist on the hunt for butterflies of colourful hues, my attention was drawn, in the garden of grey substance, to cells of delicate and elegant forms, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, whose beating wings may one day clarify the secret of mental life!...
Source: Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Memories of my life, 1923. Published in https://cvc.cervantes.es/ciencia/cajal/cajal_recuerdos/recuerdos/labor_07.htm

Curator: Karin Ohlenschläger

Artists: Guy Ben-Ary, Clara Boj & Diego Díaz, Daniel Canogar, María Castellanos & Alberto Valverde, Ursula Damm , Marco Donnarumma, Justine Emard, Emanuel Gollob, Mario Klingemann, Lancel/Maat, Laramascoto, Lisa Park, Miguel Ángel Rego Robles, and Birk Schmithüsen.

Spatial Design: Juan Jareño

Graphic Design: Pasajero 37

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