Art and the Conscious Mind- Lecture 3

This lecture centred around the unity and rationality of the conscious mind. This below is a series of Litchenstein pieces based on a Monet masterpiece.

litchensteinLichtenstein Rouen catherdral Set V(centre) 1969

Is your experience of seeing the painting unified or multiple? This piece is a prime example in this discussion. Do you see the cathedral, or the dots or both. The same occurs to some extent in all forms of painting. Do you see the paint or the formation the paint takes.

Do you have one mind or many? Is your mind rational or irrational?

An interesting view on this is that “there is a vast difference between mind and body, in respect that body, from its nature, is always divisible, and that mind is entirely indivisible.” Descartes, 1912, pg.139

However there are many opposing views.

There is some evidence to show that the mind is divisible, well in the physical sense at least.

Split brain patients can develop multiple personalities.

There is a suggestion that this “sense of coherent self is really a fiction.” Dennett writes: “It does seem that we are all virtuoso novelists, who find ourselves engaged in all sorts of behavior, more or less unified, but sometimes dis unified, and we always put the ‘best faces‘ on it we can. We try to make all of our material cohere into a single good story. And that story is our autobiography… The chief fictional character at the center of that autobiography is one’s self.” Dennett, 1991, pg.114

This suggestion of our “best faces” is something I find interesting, are we all guilty of covering up the worst, or is this a necessity for a happy self.

Cognitive dissonance in some sense indicates how easily people are lead, are we as individual as we believe.

“When people hold conflicting beliefs they can’t reconcile, they’ll be forced to believe something even if they know its not true.” Leon Festinger, 1956

One of Jainism’s principal exponents Satkari Mookerjee describes the contradictory state of existence objects enjoy with the example of a pen:

“The pen is a pen only because it has an individuality which is not the individuality of the table. The pen is perceived as a pen and also as not-pen. The not-pen is an indefinite periphery of the pen.” (Mookerjee, 1978, pg.106)

rabbit or duckWhat do you see the rabbit or the duck?

How do we know we exist? We draw a line around ourselves to distinguish ourselves from the world, and each other.

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Paintings of Victorian Prision Scenes

This below is a scene from a house of correction and these prisoners are under something known as the silent system. This element of control in the image is reminiscent of a class room. which magnifies the point that society is much like prisons, particularly the school system. Following influence from the work of Helen Verhoeven the painting of a scene appeals to me, this being very much a scene of order.

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Here I had started painting this image on A1 paper using oil paints, I don’t want the individuals to overpower the environment like I would normally, I want a steady balance. I feel I have done this quite well here, this is an initial layer and I am going to build on this, however I have to refrain from applying too many layers which gives the individuals more dignity in a scene, more right perhaps.

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Here I have started another piece, again on A1 paper.  I want this piece to be much less calculated and to overpower the individuals from then set that balance like the painting above is doing. Here I have applied the paint thicker. I have also taken notice of one prisoner in particular. He is wearing a strange head piece which I didn’t initially pick up on. I want to exaggerate this, I have painted it quite thickly and the next phase of this painting will be complementing this.

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This is the next phrase. I have wash over a diluted acrylic over the surface of the painting, which exaggerates this mask section. I don’t feel this was particularly successful.

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This below is an image of a Victorian prison, this scene focuses less upon people and more on the environment. It is clearly a prison which is of panopticon design. It does resemble some structures of society.

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Here is the first layer of this prison structure, also on A1 paper. This scene is perhaps the most interesting to paint, the prison has the haunting element of order. In the next stages of this piece I want to suggesting the power of the panopticon structure, a construction that demands obedience.
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This image is of a man fulfilling a prison task.

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This fourth study is also on A1 paper, the obvious aspect when painting this is to focus on the man, as well as the pointlessness punishment of his job. The initial layer of this piece consists of a very light indication of the figure and a heavily applied layer of white spirit. This piece along with the rest of these studies have been painting directly onto the canvas, I have avoided sketching the scene beforehand. Which would take away from the power of the environment I feel.

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Art and the Conscious Mind- Lecture 2

The first theory this lecture tackled was when exactly where consciousness is located.

If consciousness is in the brain, then where is it? If consciousness is not in the brain then where is it?

Internalism vs externalism

The externalism argument interested me more.

“You are not your brain. We are not locked up in a prison of our own ideas and sensations. The phenomenon of consciousness, like that of life itself, is a world-involving dynamic process. We are already at home in the environment.  We are out of our heads.”

Noë, A. (2009) Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness, New York: Hill and Wang, pg. xiii

The suggestion of internalism being related to a prison is intriguing, a prison within a prison of society, the brain has to be regarded as somewhat intrusive if so.

Brain decoding was then touched upon. The images directly below the television clips are examinations of the brain while viewing these clips. This is remarkable really. It raises the suggestion of authority being able to tell what people are think one day. The corruption of private thought ultimately. Which could be another aspect of the panopticon society. I find the images below interesting enough to produce a series of paintings from.

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“Our new data show that taking the full spatial pattern of brain responses into account, it is possible to provide a fully automated algorithm that predicts the dynamically changing contents of conscious perception on a moment-by-moment basis.”

Haynes and Rees, 2005, pg.1306

“My own hypothesis is that projection takes place through perceptual fields, extending out beyond the brain, connecting the seeing animal with that which is seen. Vision is rooted in the activity of the brain, but is not confined to the inside of the head.”

Rupert Sheldrake, 2005, pg.42

This extract suggests that there is much to be seen then we know, there is a theory that we know when we are being stared at.

Is the boundary between a black circle and a white background black or white?

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This is interesting in relation to the topic of environment. A prison is a boundary, so our brain have boundaries too.

Where do boundaries and even us end?

“To put it bluntly since the mind isn’t in the head anyway, what use is it for me to peer into the brain? I believe that many people who use the brain scanning methods to get a handle on problems of psychology erroneously locate the mind in the head… The head s far from being the product of the brain. It derives from the interaction of the embodied brain and the world.”

Jan Koenderink, 1999

The suggestion the the interaction with world constructs the mind suggests ones environment has a huge part to play.

The brain, body and world form a continuum, they cannot really be separated, there is no fixed boundary.


All Seeing Eye

In our Art and the conscious mind lecture, a news story was mentioned in which a pair of eyes were displayed over a University bike shed, in turn the theft rate was lowered. The article is below.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-22270052

This is an interesting article in relation to panopticon theory and the level of surveillance in our society. It has to be said behaviour changes drastically when the feeling of being watched manifests.


Newgate Prison Drawing

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This photo is of capital punishment being being practiced at the Newgate prison. These illustrations are particularly interesting, below I have produced a painted study.

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In this piece I have taken a very limited approach. I want the scene to be subtle yet overpowering. I feel I can accomplished this to some degree.

This is another image I found during an exercise session. The face masks that the prisoners are wearing seem ridiculous, I wanted to depict this in a painted study.

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In this painting I want to represent an equalness between all the figures with this diluted black markings. I wanted the posture and stance of the figures to suggests there roles or rather there prison status as guard or prisoner. I feel this difference is quite clear.


Surveillance society


Workshop- Alistair Burleigh

This workshop was taught by a sculpture, his talked in depth about light, sculptures and ambiguous depth cues. It seemed his work was very technical, which is something I normally struggle with. However I was very interested with certain aspects of this workshop. An artist that specializes in this field in Michael Murphy.

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I felt this was something I could incorporate into my work, although it does seem extremely complicated.

In groups we were given the tasks to produce some pieces that included some of this ambiguous depth cues.