Monday, 26 November 2007

Meanwhile in Italy, they're Scanning Brains as Sculpture is Stared At

From The Golden Beauty: Brain Response to Classical and Renaissance Sculptures
The most striking result was that the observation of original sculptures, relative to the modified ones, produced activation of the right insula as well as of some lateral and medial cortical areas (lateral occipital gyrus, precuneus and prefrontal areas). The activation of the insula was particularly strong during the observation condition. Most interestingly, when volunteers were required to give an overt aesthetic judgment, the images judged as beautiful selectively activated the right amygdala, relative to those judged as ugly. We conclude that, in observers naïve to art criticism, the sense of beauty is mediated by two non-mutually exclusive processes: one based on a joint activation of sets of cortical neurons, triggered by parameters intrinsic to the stimuli, and the insula (objective beauty); the other based on the activation of the amygdala, driven by one's own emotional experiences (subjective beauty).

The original image (Doryphoros by Polykleitos) is shown at the centre of the figure. This sculpture obeys to canonical proportion (golden ratio = 1∶1.618). Two modified versions of the same sculpture are presented on its left and right sides. The left image was modified by creating a short legs∶long trunk relation (ratio = 1∶0.74); the right image by creating the opposite relation pattern (ratio = 1∶0.36). All images were used in behavioral testing. The central image (judged-as-beautiful on 100%) and left one (judged-as-ugly on 64%) were employed in the fMRI study.
In conclusion, both objective and subjective factors intervene in determining our appreciation of an artwork. The history of art is replete with the constant tension between objective values and subjective judgments. This tension is deepened when artists discover new aesthetic parameters that may appeal for various reasons, be they related to our biological heritage, or simply to fashion or novelty. Still, the central question remains: when the fashion and novelty expire, could their work ever become a permanent patrimony of humankind without a resonance induced by some biologically inherent parameters?
Golden Ratio again, objectively, common, germane, but, but they say, mixed with personal meaning otherwise (that is feelings socially constructed in us all, even/especially emo brats). So why we don't just inscribe golden oblongs over everything we manufacture branding all before as 'humanity made me', i.e. what fashions a making into fashion then. Tease and release? Stretch and return?

Trevor, what you got in that egg?

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