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The most elaborate artistic visualization of the brain in the world, the work highlights what is happening inside the human brain while an individual is looking at such a masterpiece. Artists Dr. Greg Dunn and Dr. Brian Edwards hope this work – entitled Self Reflected because it is your brain perceiving itself – will increase appreciation for the brain’s complexity through the power of art.
While other disciplines often struggle to convey complex, multi-layered concepts, art is uniquely positioned to communicate ideas that are difficult, if not impossible to express otherwise. Self Reflected takes advantage of art’s power to use perception and emotion to implant a deeply nuanced idea and make direct connections about the brain of the viewer directly into the brain of the viewer.
The visual art form is ideally suited for the task of opening one’s awareness to the most amazing wonder of our bodies because it displays the beauty of the brain’s immensely vast and orderly structure while at the same time showcasing its chaos. The brain’s neurons form branching fractal patterns that anyone familiar with chaos theory will recognize, yet not even our most sophisticated medical imagine technology can map the deepest, tiniest levels of neural pathways.
To illustrate the brain’s unique combination of randomness and order, the artists chose to paint each one individually using the technique of blowing ink on the canvas with jets of air. This combines the deliberation of the artist with the unpredictability of the technique to mimic what actually happens in the brain’s structure.
The actual artwork measures 96″ by 130″, and shows a slice of human brain at a magnification of about 22 times.
It is not one single painting, but rather 25 etched plates layered together that contain the circuit dynamics of around half a million individually created neurons. The final assembled piece is hand gilded with 22 carat gold.
Combined with a choreographed lighting pattern from 144 independently controlled LED fixtures which reflect off the etched surfaces of each layer, the piece animates through the equivalent movement of 500 microseconds of brain activity.
The art is based on solid neurological research into the form and function of the brain. It is impossible to depict the brain in a two-dimensional way, because the organ is very much alive in thee (or more) dimensions.
Individual neurons do not act in isolation, but it is rather through the interconnected behaviour of neurons in three-dimensional space interacted with one another over time that brain activity actually occurs.
The convoluted fractal nature of neural arrangements maximize proximity of each neuron to as many other neurons as possible, enabling this characteristic brain behaviour. The chosen medium and presentation of the piece was heavily informed by this insight.
The title of the art works on multiple layers, just like the brain it depicts, each playing upon different meanings of the word reflection. Superficially, it depends on reflected light within its own many layers of etchings in order to be seen.
For the viewer, it is a reflection of their own brain, one that causes them to reflect upon how consciousness is somehow made possible within the amazing lump of matter in their head. And it also opens the mind to infinite regressive possibilities by illuminating how the human brain looks an awful lot like the universe itself.
Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters NewsSelf
Is our universe actually someone’s brain?
Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters News
Is your brain actually someone’s universe?
Self Reflected is on permanent exhibition in the Your Brain exhibit of the Franklin Institute, a world class science museum in Philadelphia, PA. Physically find it at 222 N 20th St., Philadelphia, PA 19103.
More on gregadunn.com/self-reflected.