Professor Matthew Cobb at The Festival of the Brain 2023

Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester where he studies the sense of smell in maggots and Neanderthals. He is also an author of popular science books, including “The Idea of the Brain” (2020).

“I will look at the fundamental question of why are we interested in the brain. In particular, I will show how we came to focus on this lump of apparently inert squishy stuff in our heads, and how our ideas about what the brain does have changed over time, with technology driving our interpretations. Yesterday, we thought the brain was like a telephone exchange, now we think it is like a computer, and tomorrow?” 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Cobb

The Festival of the Brain took place on March 11th 2023 at The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery Rawtenstall. This day long festival featured a variety of guest speakers each of whom presented different areas of expertise and viewpoints all relating to aspects and ideas of the brain.  

The festival took place during Clements solo show ‘Everyone In This Room is Connected to Everyone in this Room’ at the gallery (Feb 24 – May 7 2023) where she explored visual representations of the brain alongside AR and AI interactions and films.

Filming by LGBTV https://www.lgbtv.co.uk

Edited by Jo Clements

Dr Libby Heaney at The Festival of the Brain 2023

Libby Heaney is a London based artist, who works across moving image, performance, installation, sculpture and print, usually combining these with advanced technologies such as machine learning, game engines & quantum computing – a new type of computer that processes information on particles following the weird laws of quantum physics.

Heaney is widely known as the first person to make art with quantum computers. Her artwork Ent- has been exhibited across continents, has received substantial international press in places like Der Welt, Wallpaper* and Spike Art, and received the Lumen Prize Immersive Environments Award in 2022.

Title: From binary to non-binary: quantum computing and art

Overview: Imagine programming a slimeball. Taking a gooey, entangled, shapeshifting reality and massaging it in precisely the right way to solve problems that could never be solved on even the largest binary, digital computer.

This is quantum computing – a powerful new type of computer – that is being intensely pursued by big tech companies and governments around the globe. Yet hardly anyone is discussing the forthcoming quantum revolution. In this talk, I’ll use my slimy quantum art practice to unpack quantum computing. I will lift the lid on how big tech companies plan to use these tools and the radical potential of quantum computing in the arts.

https://libbyheaney.co.uk.

Cover photo by Andrea Rossetti

The Festival of the Brain took place on March 11th 2023 at The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery Rawtenstall. This day long festival featured a variety of guest speakers each of whom presented different areas of expertise and viewpoints all relating to aspects and ideas of the brain.  

The festival took place during Clements solo show ‘Everyone In This Room is Connected to Everyone in this Room’ at the gallery (Feb 24 – May 7 2023) where she explored visual representations of the brain alongside AR and AI interactions and films.

Filming by LGBTV https://www.lgbtv.co.uk

Edited by Jo Clements

Dr Karen Lander at The Festival of the Brain 2023

Dr Karen Lander is an experimental cognitive psychologist.  Her research has focused on face perception and recognition.  She is also interested in why some people are better at recognising faces than others and the application of her work to criminal identification and computer animation of faces. 

Her talk provides an overview of what we know about face perception and recognition addressing such questions as – why face recognition is important?  what happens when face recognition goes wrong? how do we store information about faces in memory? and what makes a face attractive?  We will look at face ‘illusions’ and see how well you can recognise faces.

https://research.manchester.ac.uk/en/persons/karen.lander

The Festival of the Brain took place on March 11th 2023 at The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery Rawtenstall. This day long festival featured a variety of guest speakers each of whom presented different areas of expertise and viewpoints all relating to aspects and ideas of the brain.  

The festival took place during Clements solo show ‘Everyone In This Room is Connected to Everyone in this Room’ at the gallery (Feb 24 – May 7 2023) where she explored visual representations of the brain alongside AR and AI interactions and films.

Filming by LGBTV https://www.lgbtv.co.uk

Edited by Jo Clements

Amanda Sutton at The Festival of the Brain 2023

Amanda Sutton is the Director of Venture Arts an award-winning visual arts charity based in Hulme, Manchester.

“Our vision is a world in which people with learning disabilities are empowered, celebrated, included and valued in the arts, culture and society.

Our mission is to shape a new cultural landscape where people with learning disabilities reach their potential as artists, curators, critics, audiences, participants and advocates.”

https://venturearts.org

The Festival of the Brain took place on March 11th 2023 at The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery Rawtenstall. This day long festival featured a variety of guest speakers each of whom presented different areas of expertise and viewpoints all relating to aspects and ideas of the brain.  

The festival took place during Clements solo show ‘Everyone In This Room is Connected to Everyone in this Room’ at the gallery (Feb 24 – May 7 2023) where she explored visual representations of the brain alongside AR and AI interactions and films.

Filming by LGBTV https://www.lgbtv.co.uk

Edited by Jo Clements

Rachel Mason at The Festival of the Brain 2023

Rachel Mason works collaboratively to create visual imagery, including photography and moving image. She has shown collaborative projects at Open Eye Gallery and The Turnpike. Rachel is also FACT Liverpool’s Learning Producer, leading on production of FACT’s artistic programme within the Justice System and supporting on the young people’s programme. Whether working on long term projects, facilitating workshops or creating spaces for people to connect, her projects all revolve around establishing a dialogue and working cross disciplinary.

How I See It is a collaborative art project between Rachel and Anita, who has synaesthesia. Her synaesthesia manifests as every single word having a correlating internal image, some photographic and some 3D forms. Most are not a direct link to the word itself, with some words (mainly people’s names) producing a more prominent image, which is easier to articulate than others. This is a process based project learning about synaesthesia, articulation and representation through dialogue and photographic exchange

https://www.rachelmasonphoto.co.uk

The Festival of the Brain took place on March 11th 2023 at The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery Rawtenstall. This day long festival featured a variety of guest speakers each of whom presented different areas of expertise and viewpoints all relating to aspects and ideas of the brain.  

The festival took place during Clements solo show ‘Everyone In This Room is Connected to Everyone in this Room’ at the gallery (Feb 24 – May 7 2023) where she explored visual representations of the brain alongside AR and AI interactions and films.

Filming by LGBTV https://www.lgbtv.co.uk

Edited by Jo Clements

After This After (2023)

Giclee Print on aquarelle rag paper (28cm x 21cm) Limited edition of 10.

An abstract sculpture represented in velvet and glitter is presented as a still life and photographed.

Deliberately referencing Dutch flower paintings but devoid of their inherent symbolism and structured meaning, this mediated work conversely invites an open-minded, visceral response.

The ambiguous undefined form plays with the idea that not all thoughts amount to knowledge and not all knowledge requires thought.

Documentary by Maria Ruban to accompany the exhibition Everyone in this Room is Connected to Everyone in this Room

The Glittering Centrepiece of the Whole Fucking World

The Glittering Centrepiece of the Whole Fucking World (2023) velvet, copper, expanding foam, scaffolding. 160cm x 100cm

Photo Credit @JulesLister

This work is constructed from meticulously and laboriously hand sewn velvet representations of the human brain to create a tangled, visceral, cacophony that represents a science fiction inspired ‘Brain Garden’. The work is inspired by my ongoing interest into visualisations of the brain, how we value knowledge, both human and otherwise, and specifically in this work, the reclamation of land via plant intelligences that science is only just beginning to understand. Heavily influenced by fantastical science fiction narratives that imagine a world far removed from our present reality I want this work to provoke visceral responses, to be something beautiful but also disconcerting and otherworldly.
The velvet brains are on copper stems which is a direct reference to plants known as hyperaccumulators (a hyperaccumulator is a plant capable of growing in soil or water with very high concentrations of metals, absorbing these metals through their roots, and concentrating extremely high levels of metals in their tissues). The work imagines a future garden where human bodies are no longer needed by hyperaccumulating brains that suck knowledge from the rock they grow from thereby becoming knowledge rich but without the means to function in any way other than to communicate with each other through their underground neural networks. Beautiful and clever but also functionally useless.

What Has Been Comes Not Again

What Has Been Comes Not Again (2022) 110cm x 160 cm giclee print on Aquarelle Rag paper 

Photo Credit @JulesLister

An arrangement of hand sewn velvet brains are presented as a still life. Plastic insects infect the scene and an avocado sits in the background. Inspired by Dutch flower paintings the scene depicts Clements’ interest in visceral artificial displays that are autobiographical in nature, beautiful and surreally disturbing. 

The Machine Stops

The Machine Stops (2022) giclee print on Aquarelle Rag paper 110 x160cm

Photo Credit @JulesLister

An arrangement of hand sewn velvet brains are presented as a still life alongside objects that refer to autobiographical moments from the artists working class background. This  humorous arrangement infers complex meanings from a bizarre set of seemingly unrelated signifying ephemera that Clements has carefully selected and captured in a way that allows for multiple readings and visceral responses.

What if we’d never known this?

What if we’d never known this? (2023) velvet, expanding foam, mdf, crin 100cm x 80cm x 5cm

2 velvet brains are attached to but float above a set of velvet emoji lips, the symbol for flirting. The work playfully references the mysteries of sexual attraction, the unpredictability of the consequences of choice and the modern visual language of love. 

Photo Credit @JulesLister

What if you’d never seen that?

What if you’d never seen that? (2023) velvet, expanding foam, mdf, crin 80cm x 80cm x 5cm

Photo Credit @JulesLister

Nest

(2023) velvet, copper, expanding foam, mdf.  150cm x 40cm x30cm

Photo credit @JulesLister

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Would you Adam and Eve it? (2023) velvet, expanding foam, artificial tree, copper cable, hessian, artificial grass. 

photo credit @JulesLister

Meets The Minimal Degree of Creativity

Meets The Minimal Degree of Creativity (2023) Black 3.0 acrylic on canvas, velvet, expanding foam, silver duct tape 

This work is a tongue in cheek reaction to the recent banana on a canvas work by Maurizio Cattelan and the subsequent lawsuit bought by another artist who claimed to have been the first person to stick fruit to a wall with duct tape. The judge ruled in Cattelans favour by pronouncing that the work Meets The Minimal Degree of CreativityIn addition, the black paint used is made by artist Stuart Semple who made the blackest Black 3.0 paint in response to Anish Kapoors copyrighting of the blackest, most light absorbing black pigment. 

Succession #7

Succession #7 gold (2023) velvet, expanding foam, mdf, crin, 3D printed PLA, sand. 

Succession is a term coined by botanist Frederick Clements (no relation). Clements described plant succession as a developmental process through which the community underwent a well-defined series of stages that ultimately resulted in a mature, or climax, community. The climax community was both an indicator and expression of the climatic conditions that determined it.

This work plays with the idea of Succession, as described by 2 Clements’s, by imagining a future event whereby all human life has been extinguished but regrows as organic brains that exist without body, controlled movement or obvious purpose. The work also takes cues from science fiction where fears about AI and machine learning taking over from a corporeal humanity abound (The Matrix, The Machine Stops).

3 of the brains have implanted NFC ‘Brain Chips’ each of which narrates a story, in augmented reality, that humanises individual brains.

Photo credit @JulesLister

Succession #1-6

Succession #1-6 (2023) velvet, expanding foam, mdf, crin, 3D printed PLA, sand.

Succession is a term coined by botanist Frederick Clements (no relation). Clements described plant succession as a developmental process through which the community underwent a well-defined series of stages that ultimately resulted in a mature, or climax, community. The climax community was both an indicator and expression of the climatic conditions that determined it.

This work plays with the idea of Succession, as described by 2 Clements’s, by imagining a future event whereby all human life has been extinguished but regrows as organic brains that exist without body, controlled movement or obvious purpose. The work also takes cues from science fiction where fears about AI and machine learning taking over from a corporeal humanity abound (The Matrix, The Machine Stops).

15 of the brains have implanted NFC (near-field communication) ‘Brain Chips’ each of which narrates a story, in augmented reality, to simultaneously humanise and haunt these surreally isolated brains.

Photo credit @JulesLister

Jo’s 90

Jo’s 90 (2023) Single Channel Video.

1 hour 30 minutes, colour, silent.

A 90 minute film inspired by science fiction narratives whereby vast swaths of knowledge can be immediately learned from connection to an external device and the artist’s lifelong love of dressing up – from playing as a child to playing as an adult.  The work looks at how personal knowledge is accrued and valued, particularly through the lens of class divisions where knowledge can be dismissed, ignored and ridiculed, the absurdity of what outfits (appearances) might be acceptable in contemporary society and what they hide, how they are expected to construct a conformist identity (in all cultures) and how artists collect knowledge in the pursuit of a deeper meaning for their work. 

The film records the artist wearing a 1960’s hairdryer hood re fashioned as a battle mask that functions to both acquire and shield from knowledge. She wears a different outfit to create a fantasy persona for each of the 90 scenes, performing in front of 90 different backdrops whilst an accompanying text describes 90 ‘facts’ removed from their original context. Animated brains increase in number with each frame and each piece of acquired knowledge, to eventually dominate the screen and obscure her background. 

To view the full film please contact the artist jo[at]joclements.co.uk

A Brick That Came Through the Window in the Dead of Night

A Brick That Came Through The Window in the Dead of Night (2022) 4 minutes, colour, sound

Scripted via AI technology using a process whereby heartbreaking, personal texts are inputted to a GPT3 programme so that the computer writes new narratives thus connecting human emotion to the computer’s data ethnography to imagine how machine generated texts can be interpreted as ‘emotional’ responses. Made using1950’s found home movie footage, a computer-generated narration, and the absurd prevalence of an animated ‘sinister’ coloured brick.

To view the film please contact the artist jo[at]joclements.co.uk

Review by Greg Thorpe of Everyone in this Room is Connected to Everyone in this Room