Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Drawing the brain

Brain Drawing
I recently got to hold and draw a human brain (many Thanks to the anatomy department).
I was completely star struck!
As I began drawing, which involves switching into a mode that focuses on an 'active seeing', I had to consciously shut up my internal chatter about how amazing it was to be drawing a real plasticised brain. For two hours I drew, unaware of my environment, time or any theoretical sense of the brain. I describe this state as as liminal state or space, where my focus and attention is engaged between the brain and I, what Csikszentmihalyi (2002) would refer to as Flow or what Winnicott might refer to as "transitional space".
Curiosity about how much of the art process is in the brain (or not) is why I am studying Cognitive science. As we began reading articles that included such tantalising titles as "The Extended Mind", I hoped to find some discussion on this liminal space of focus or engagement between person and object.

Clark and Chalmers (1998) did discuss something similar in "The Extended Mind", giving an example of a notebook being used to contain memory, which I would compare to my sketchbook containing my drawing, until I need it to develop the next stage of artwork. However I consider my notebook to be a tool or container not an extended facet of my mind. As Clark (2003 p38) suggests, the artists' sketchpad begins to "function as transparent equipment".
Noe (2010 p80) writes of "increasing the extent of peripersonal space" through "tool-using skills" which is quite a similar phrase to Hasson et al's (2011) discussion of "interpersonal space". Noe similar to Clark is looking at how tools become at one with the user.  Hasson et al's opening line to "Brain-to-brain coupling: a mechanism for creating and sharing a social world" is "Cognition materialises in interpersonal space", which sounded promising to me,  however Hasson et al are discussing an interpersonal space between people.

While drawing the brain am I extending my mind? This question remains unanswered.
Hutchins (2010) navigator had an "Aha" moment of revelation, so did my drawing enable an "Aha" moment of clarity for me?
As I drew the human brain and tried to fathom why I was so star struck I realised it was because I have projected so many mystical attributes to this physical organ. Having drawn it as an isolated dead organ it seems more like an environmental filter just as our other organs filter oxygen, blood, food etc. As Noe (2010 p48) rather eloquently puts it, "You can no more explain mind in terms of the cell than you can explain dance in terms of the muscle".

Noe, Alva (2010) Out of our Heads Hill & Wang New York

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