Christopher Tyler discusses three books published by Diatrope Press

Complete Illustrated Edition of the Life of Leonardo da Vinci, from Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari.. Edited with complete illustrations and annotations by Christopher W. Tyler. Color illustrations throughout. This is the only edition of Vasari’s Life of da Vinci that illustrates every single painting and sculpture mentioned by Vasari. Translated by Gaston du C. De Vere (The Medici Society/Macmillan: London, 1912-1915).

Portraits of his Daughters by Thomas Gainsborough commemorates two delightful sisters painted by their father, the famous 18th century English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). The daughters are buried together at St Mary’s Church, Hanwell. In 1809, the rector of the Church, George Henry Glass, built the Hanwell cottage where a fountain inscribed in memory of two sisters makes an interesting link with the Gainsborough daughters. Illustrations on every page.

Parallel Alices: Alice through the Looking Glass of Eleanor of Aquitaine. New insights into historical roots of Alice in Wonderland. Examines the historical lines of the Alice books by Lewis Carroll through the historical sources at the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine. 170p. 6×9″ inches. Includes timelines, glossary, bibliography.

Book Review of The Seductions of Darwin: Art, Evolution, Neuroscience by Mathew Rampley

Reviewed by Amy Ione, May 2020

It is not surprising that Mathew Rampley’s book, The Seductions of Darwin: Art, Evolution, Neuroscience, caught my eye since the volume touches on a number of topics covered in my own Art and the Brain: Plasticity, Embodiment, and the Unclosed Circle. [1] What did surprise me is that, despite analyzing many of the same subjects (cave painting, evolutionary psychology, art history, neuroaesthetics, neuroarthistory, etc.), the two books are worlds apart, even as we share similar goals. Both of us state that we seek to encourage humanistic thinking and voice reservations about the scientific and philosophical research surrounding art, neuroscience, and evolution. Yet, while I agree with Rampley’s premise that efforts to construct a “unity of knowledge” theory are misconceived, I found that his book read like a polemic, with arguments more along the lines of “not this, not that” than a humanistic probing of the contours of art, evolution, and neuroscience. This reaction is one the author himself acknowledges as possible, writing: “[m]uch of the discussion will come across as polemical in tone” (p. viii) and “[i]t would be reasonable to conclude, given the polemical tone adopted in this book, that I see neo-Darwinian approaches as having little value” (p. 140). Thus, my principal take-away was a humanistic-type question: Why is it that two people who review much of the same range of information can come away worlds apart? He is clear that, “It might be objected that I am relying on a reductive and overly empirical notion of inquiry, one based on the testing of hypotheses, and that this approach is particularly problematic when applied to the humanities” (p. 139); consistent with this statement, I take a more dialogical humanistic type of approach to the issues.

The Seductions of Darwin itself consists of an informative introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion. The bulk of the book outlines what Rampley sees as persistent weaknesses in theories of art that assume (presume) a Darwinian or neuroscientific perspective. What was most prominent within this is that he is looking for a unifying explanatory methodology (despite his claim that efforts to construct “unity of knowledge” theories are flawed). This paradoxical strategy lands him in a space that largely mirrors the theoretical problems inherent in the arguments he rejects.

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Was Kandinsky a Synaesthete?

Take a look at  Dyedra K. C. Just‘s paper “Was Kandinsky a Synaesthete? Examining His Writings and Other Evidence,” which examines a subject also examined by Amy Ione and Christopher Tyler  in their paper “Was Kandinsky a Synesthete?
Below is the abstract for the D. K. C. Just paper:

Wassily Kandinsky is widely regarded as one of the most prominent examples of a synaesthetic artist. However, in the scientific literature there is disagreement on the genuineness of his synaesthesia. This paper investigates whether Kandinsky had inborn synaesthesia, while acknowledging that there are also types of induced synaesthesia which he may have cultivated. As these two types of synaesthesia are seen to work additively in some synaesthetes and not to be mutually exclusive, this is not seen as an argument against the view that he was a true inborn synaesthete. Whether Kandinsky was a synaesthete is examined through a detailed study of his primary writings (e.g., On the Spiritual in Art, Point and Line to Plane, and Reminiscences), in light of the modern diagnostic criteria. The experiences described in those writings indicate that his synaesthetic perceptions were genuine and inborn and not just a theoretical endeavour. Given the genetic dimension of synaesthesia, this view is further supported by the fact that Kandinsky’s uncle Victor Kandinsky also described having synaesthetic experiences.

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RIP: Jonathan Miller (1934-2019)

Jonathan Miller (1934-2019) was an English theatre and opera director, actor, author, television presenter, humorist and medical doctor. After training in medicine and specializing in neurology in the late 1950s, he came to prominence in the early 1960s in the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. He died 27 November 2019 at the age of 85. Obituary here.

At the age of 12, at the St. Paul’s School, his lifelong friendship with Dr. Oliver Sacks began. Indeed, the neurologist’s journey to international fame began when Mr. Miller showed the original manuscript of Dr. Sacks’s book “Awakenings” to a London publisher.

Another noteworthy interdisciplinary project was in 1983 with “States of Mind.” He interviewed the art historian Ernst Gombrich, the philosopher and scientist Daniel Dennett and others about consciousness and the brain.

In 1978 he presented “The Body in Question,” a 13-part BBC series about human biology during which he performed an autopsy on a dead vagrant. The book from that series, The Body in Question, is available here.

Book Review: The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity by Jeffrey Sconce

Reviewed by Amy Ione.   

The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity by Jeffrey Sconce is a robust and multidimensional reminder of the complexity of human consciousness. Moving from Enlightenment studies of electricity and human anatomy to our 21st century digitally-connected globe, this interdisciplinary study asserts that delusions of electronic persecution have been a preeminent symptom of psychosis for over 200 years. One impressive feature of the study is how deftly Sconce weaves together case studies, literary source material, court cases, and popular media. Through this material he argues that we are moving toward an increasingly psychotic reality in which data practices will produce a world in which thought, reflection, and doubt will be disrupted by the very structures humans are putting in place. In his view, the current melding of big data and political power is creating a situation in which it is becoming more difficult to isolate precisely how (or perhaps where) bodies, the mind, electronics, and information intersect. He draws a parallel between psychotic disembodiment and electronic simulations:

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Now Available: Eye centring in selfies posted on Instagram

Abstract
Earlier work by one of us examined a historical corpus of portraits and found that artists often paint the subject such that one eye is centred horizontally. If due to psychological mechanisms constraining artistic composition, this eye-centring bias should be detectable also in portraits by non-professionals. However, this finding has been questioned both on theoretical and empirical grounds. Here we tested eye-centring in a larger (N ~ = 4000) and more representative set of selfies spontaneously posted on Instagram from six world cities. In contrast with previous selfie results, the distribution of the most-centred eye position peaked almost exactly at the horizontal centre of the image and was statistically different from predictions based on realistic Monte-Carlo predictions. In addition, we observed a small but statistically reliable pseudoneglect effect as well as a preference for centring the left-eye. An eye-centring tendency appears to exist in self-portraits by non-artists.

Authors: Nicola BrunoID1*, Marco Bertamini2*, Christopher W. Tyler
PLoS ONE14(7): e0218663.
PDF

1 DiMeC, Università di Parma, Parma, Italy,

2 Department of Psychological Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom,

3 Division of Optometry and Vision Sciences, School of Health Sciences, City University of London, London, United Kingdom

* M.Bertamini@liverpool.ac.uk (MB); nicola.bruno@unipr.it (NB)

(Also see MedicalResearch.com interview here and articles)

Video: Amy Ione Lecture: “Art and the Brain: Plasticity, Embodiment, and the Unclosed Circle”

Keynote lecture for Off the Lip 2015 conference at Cog Novo: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Cognitive Innovation: Conference from 9-11 Sep 2015. The lecture introduces ideas from Ione’s forthcoming book, Art and the Brain: Plasticity, Embodiment, and the Unclosed Circle see www.diatrope.com/artbrainbook.

Also posted on the page are the two other keynotes: “Roger Malina, New Forms of Art-Science Collaboration: Case Studies” and “Sundar Sarukkai, Cognitive Innovation in Mathematics”, see http://www.cognovo.eu/events/otlip15-keynotes.php#amy-ione

Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric R. Kandel (Reviewed by Amy Ione)

Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures
by Eric R. Kandel
Columbia University Press, NY, NY, 2016
240 pp. Trade: $29.95, ISBN-10: 0231179626;ISBN-13: 978-0231179621
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Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric Kandel, like his study The Age of Insight [1], builds on earlier efforts to couple science and art, particularly those of Alois Riegl (1858-1905), Ernst Kris (1900-1957), and Ernst Gombrich (1909-2001). These three men, he tells us, endeavored to establish art history as a scientific discipline by grounding it in psychological principles. Riegl emphasized the “beholder’s involvement, stating that art includes the perceptual and emotional involvement of the viewer. Kris studied ambiguity in visual perception, concluding that every powerful image is inherently ambiguous because it arises from experiences and conflicts in the artist’s life. Gombrich extended Kris’ ideas to include the inverse optics problem: how our brain takes the incomplete information about the outside world that it receives from our eyes and makes it complete. This is a problem that arises because the brain reconstructs the images we see. It should be noted that Gombrich’s positioning in his well known Art and Illusion [2] is, like Kandel’s, more concerned with beholders than artists or the community.

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Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind (Book Review)

Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind
by Ben Shephard

Reviewed by Amy Ione

Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind traces a slice of history that in turn introduces us to some of those drawn to study human psychology and mental health a few decades after Darwin’s theory of evolution took root. Four of these pioneers are the focus of this book: William Rivers, Grafton Elliot Smith, Charles Myers, and William McDougall. They met at Cambridge in the 1890s and Shephard links their lives more broadly through their efforts to study the brain as biological approaches were gaining increased leverage due to Darwin’s work. The author begins the book by placing us in that context:

“How, then, did the human brain evolve? Why did it evolve as it did? In the 1870s, modern experimental neuroscience began, using electricity to stimulate the nervous system of animals and microscopes to observe the nerve cells of humans. Within two decades, researchers had established the location of functions within the brain, unraveled the way that the nervous system automatically governs the body’s functions, and begun to discover how messages are sent between neurons and synapses. But these extraordinary advances only posed further questions — about human behavior; man’s relations to his fellow primates, and the human occupation of the earth. A generation of scientists went looking for answers” (p. 1).

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Article: Tyler Study debunking myths about color vision (Optometry Today)

Study uses arrays of multicoloured disks to demonstrate colour perception in peripheral vision

Some common science-related misconceptions are particularly persistent, such as a duck’s quack doesn’t echo, or that we only use 10% of our brains.

Now new research from City University London is aiming to dispel a long-held misbelief relating to colour vision: that it is weak or non-existent in our periphery vision.

“This misconception about weak peripheral colour vision is completely incorrect,” said Professor Christopher Tyler, a visual neuroscientist at the university’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, who carried out the study.

“Although the number of cone photoreceptors is lower in the periphery than in the fovea, with about 4000 cones per mm2 throughout the peripheral retina compared to 200,000 in the central fovea, this is still plenty enough to give colour vision,” said Professor Tyler.

Continue reading article in OT (Optometry Today), 11 Nov 2015 by Ryan O’Harehttps://www.aop.org.uk/ot/science-and-vision/research/2015/11/11/research-debunks-misconceptions-around-peripheral-colour-vision

Read the full study in i-Perceptionhttp://ipe.sagepub.com/content/6/6/2041669515613671.full.pdf