Reflections on IACC: expectations and neuroscience
Per and I have been engaged in a dialogue about the differences and parallels between art and science for many years, and in so doing have always been conscious of our own limited perspectives. I am not an artist, and Per is not a scientist and this often results in wonderful moments of mutual confusion. Increasingly, these conversations have deepened my appreciation of his artistic vision, and it is a great pleasure to take the opportunity now to reflect on I Am A Curator (IAAC).
During our conversations about this project it became clear to the both of us that expectations provide a relevant point of departure for our reflections on both art and science. Expectations are ephemeral thoughts: they are always present; informing, shaping and determining our minds while at the same time remaining mostly unconscious. During the process of creating IAAC, however, expectations (of himself, the artists, the audience and the art-world) showed themselves clearly to Per, and had to be confronted head-on. I have come to understand that the outcome of these confrontations has shaped Per’s artistic practice greatly over the next ten years. In fact, the more I have been thinking about IAAC, the more I seem to understand him and his artistic vision.
The predicting Brain
Expectations (or rather: predictions) are currently a very important and influential topic in cognitive neuroscience. This has certainly not always been the case and it is only recently that the importance of expectations has been appreciated in neuroscience. To understand what I mean, we have to go back several decades to when the brain was understood according to the then contemporary cultural metaphor of the computer (after the prevailing metaphor of telephone switch-board). The primacy of the computer metaphor started in the fifties and gradually gained more and more influence until it peaked in the 70’s and 80’s.This co-occurred with the interest in artificial intelligence in the 90’s. From this cognitivist view, every complex function (such as perception, memory and action) was understood as a succession of many simpler processing steps, with each step informing the next.