This post follows on from my previous post about meet Neuroesthetics Professor Semir Zeki. Here's a section of his email reply:
"I am very pleased to learn that I was able to communicate something of interest during my visit.
Of course, it would be a pleasure to maintain contact. For immediate gratification, may I recommend the following:
Our recent paper entitled Towards a brain-based theory of beauty. You can access this by going to our website at www.vislab.ucl.ac.uk; go to Papers in the left hand column and type in the paper, which can be downloaded. Although the paper is technical, you can skip all the details and read the abstract and introduction, and then the discussion, from "Towards a definition…." onwards.
The other publication I would recommend is my book, Splendours and Miseries of the Brain. Here again, I suggest that you skip the first 50 pages, and start from Part II. You can return to Part I later."
I' am really glad Semir could recommend these papers, it should make some really intelligent reading. And as I've said before, it's exploring a new ground of learning which directly relates to art.
A commute is a pretty subconscious part of my day. More so in the morning, which for some sleepyheads is understandable. But on the way home things are the complete polar opposite. You are self-conscious, completely aware, and if you're like me, acutely paranoid. It is on these journeys home - in the space of fifteen minutes between the train arriving and leaving again - that we are plagued, as per bloody usual, by adverts. Any fellow Vis-Commers would agree, adverts are pretty much the devil with a plastic sheen and a dead smile. But these adverts were something different today. Yes they were selling a product, as they all do, and yes they were all selling a lifestyle. But these three particular adverts for the latest hardback books all had something in common.
Their main protagonist (blatantly hinted at in these adverts) is an assassin. What intrigued me today was the curiosity one would indulge in about this protagonist. The hard man, the impenetratable, calculated and remorseless character that we find so many few of in the real world. They're a bit like ninjas. But still these books sell by the thousands, and their audience (the commuter, more often the male) will desire that inpenetratable shell of a hit man.
For me these adverts are targeting the sensitive male confidence, which may not become apparent above the surface of these books and their advertising campaigns.
They're generating an ideal that the modern man should be unfasable, confident, strong, yet hidden, disguised a hero. The question I' am asking is this: Is the protagonist (the assassin) being dressed up as a hero?. If a book is to take a villainous and dangerous murderer and describe in descriptive depth his lifestyle, his day as heroic and deadly, it is a sad shame these books do sell by the bucket load.
Commuters buy these adverts, and then they buy the book. And then they read the book on the train alongside strangers with their machines. And then they finally imagine themselves as this character.
Now what I' am not saying is imagining one's self as such a despicable character is an aspiration or desire, because there is a very big difference between an aspiration and a fantasy. Neither am I saying that these books are wrong or shouldn't be written, published, mass printed, distributed and sold to the public. Because they probably should, it's supply and demand.
Maybe my conclusion is that violence is a form of pornography.
It's just that Freudian fascination that's deep set in our brain boxes that feeds curiosity, whether it's reading a John Grisham hit man killer thriller book or watching Saw 2.
Advertisers earn money to prey on our human nature, but there are many that know better. Because we're not stupid at all. Generations are evolving with more intelligence, so don't assume that we're bears wandering in to traps.
For my first experience of volunteering for a short amount of time, I reaped a much richer wealth of knowledge than I could've expected. It was brilliant to have some involvement in manning the charity stall, but what really benefited me the most was watching a talk from Semir Zeki, a Professor of Neuroesthetics at the University of Central London. Professor Zeki guided us through the complexities of the human mind, and particularly our relationship with art as a viewer, the effects of pleasure and knowledge, along with the existence of beauty and ugliness seen in all art.
I fortunately got to talk to Prof. Zeki after his chat to the audience, and we then became acquainted with. I expressed my lack of knowledge but willingness to learn about this unknown world, and Semir ensured me we could communicate in the future via email. And even if I was to be in London, he would happily meet me on a Friday evening to browse the National gallery and discuss some work together.
This has been an extremely refreshing and reassuring encounter with a gentleman so knowledgable. Below is an extract from my appreciation email to him:
I' am writing you just to express my appreciation for your evening talk at the Happiness Postcard Exhibition at Love Arts Leeds. It was a real priviledge to talk (even for a short while) in person and become acquainted with you. Although my knowledge of science is incredibly unexplored, your talk opened my eyes to the workings of the brain, our relationship of pleasure and knowledge with art, and the differentiations and coexistences of beauty and ugliness within art. It was delightful to scratch below a surface of my own knowledge, so for that I' am highly appreciative.
I hope from now on, we can sustain a long distance contact in which you can hopefully guide me towards a broader introduction to your work as a professor of neuroesthetics, and provide me with a "beginner's guide" to your work, be it examples of papers deemed understandable by an individual not so aware with the subject, or one of your own books."
I intend to make the most of everything Prof. Zeki can hopefully teach me, which can hopefully benefit some of my contextual theoretical understanding and general understanding of percieving art from seperate angles.
Indecisive whether I like this effort, it was a challenge placed upon my self anyway, so I wasn't hoping to make something mindblowing. It was just a change of tack, and I think I've proved I can use black watercolour, which ticks a box!
Going to have to choose a different film now and improve on this poster.
I've just come across my wonderful friend's blog post about the coat (again!).
Colleen on the coat:
"Its very special. Not because it is awesome but because Jamie drew it and he was about 15/16 at the time. He is a very special talent and my unofficial ‘son’. He and I have a good relationship based on mutual respect, all very adult, but then he is. The coat will be wheeled out on the 4th of September one of only 2 ever public appearances… I hope it causes a flutter..."
It made me smile from ear to ear reading that I was regarded as her "unofficial 'son'", and of course I' am more than proud to consider her my own official mum!
A bit of a personal post, but who cares, we're on to 399!