Ed Vassel came to speak at my class in College the other
He is a Director at NYU ArtLab and a Research Scientist
studying the field of Neuroaesthetics.
Neuroaesthetics a relatively recent sub-discipline of empirical
aesthetics. Empirical aesthetics takes a scientific approach
to the study of aesthetic perceptions of art and music. In a
paper written partly by Ed Vassel entitled," The brain on art:
intense aesthetic experience activates the default mode network", he says,
"The nature of aesthetic experience presents an apparent
paradox. Observers have strong aesthetic reactions to very different sets of images, and are moved by particular images for very different reasons. Yet the ability to be aesthetically moved appears to be universal."
We talked on a number of things in class, but my biggest concern with the field of Neuroaesthetics arises from the point behind it. As stated in the quote above, Vassel's research shows that no matter what people will have different tastes, but that everyone can be moved by art. This is something we have known without this science since we were kids. Vassel and his colleagues used brain scans of people viewing art to see what areas of the brain affect how we are moved by a a piece of artwork. They found that it isn't necessarily one part, but sections of different parts of our brains, that when moved by a painting, cause us to feel moved. My concern lies in the point of, "So we know what parts of the brain cause this, so what?" Many other topics in the field of Neuroaesthetics have touched on these findings to be able to help artists and others learn and benefit from being able to identify what could move someone, but if so, I fear that if there is a point at all with having this knowledge, Does this limit art to what we can consider as good or bad, or right or wrong, instead of just using our eyes and feeling regardless of the quality. My thought is of a kindergartner's painting or drawing that is posted to the family fridge. The kids drawing will most likely not be technically a masterpiece, but you may feel the most moved by it if say you were the parent. Or possibly another kid walks in and sees it as something that may resemble more closely with how he views art or draws. I find it very interesting from the science aspect and for the general knowledge we can learn about our senses, but I believe they should stay exactly that, our senses that is. It is cool to learn how it works, but I prefer to just go with my gut and appreciate all art and not judge art based off of some scale to try and "move" people, it should be able to do that without any effort all by itself.