Text published in the CNS newsletter in December 2018.
The multimedia art exhibition, which featured works from students of the Medical Neurosciences program at the Charité, Max Delbrück centrum Berlin, and fantastic collaborators, was displayed for 3 days at >topLab in Neukölln. There was electricity in the air that mid-July Monday. Those who had braved the sweltering heat of the u-Bahn, certainly did so in some numbers! from 7 until 10 it was not unusual to see up to 80 people at any one time milling amongst the colorful pieces…
“Are those the real colors?”
As you walked into the ground floor gallery and its basement (if you could squeeze in through the crowd congregating outside), a broad variety of works were displayed: photography, watercolor and oil paintings, multimedia projections, a soundscape, a hologram, graphite sketches, light-boxes, and more. Scientific themes were evident
in the pieces, with microscopy images, magnified blowups of biological tissue and lab equipment – but there were also many important personal and human elements in the art. Many depicted friends and colleagues at work, while others showed the human side of clinical neuroscience, highlighting mental disorders. In this way, visitors explored what the artists had to say about neuroscience as a whole field. Why did they do research? What was it like? Who were they? What did they find beautiful about it?
“Did you have a theme in mind?”
Our intention was to communicate scientific knowledge, provide insight into the scientific experimental process, and humanize and individualize researchers in the eye of the public, using art as an alternative communication medium. The intense and thoughtful discussions that could be overheard at any moment were fueled by artwork, and passion (and perhaps the delicious beverages from the bar). Collaborations sprouted from inspired individuals becoming a community. The feeling of connection was palpable and electric.
“The curating must have taken ages!”
Astoundingly, the pieces curated themselves, little direction was given to the sci-artists, and they delivered the most varied, stunning pieces. The layout lent itself to a comfortable clockwise stroll around the works: For example, there was Sharhyar Khorasani’s surrealist wall of sketches. These were often revisited by attendees, and every time, a new theme could be discovered in these intricate and absurd works. People were also invited to descend into the cellar, where we had incorporated the feeling of closeness to create an inviting full sensory experience. The dark certainly complemented the other-worldliness of the fly brain hologram project by Hamish Logan and Tatiana Lupashina. A regular queue of curious attendees awaited to enter a nook tucked away. One by one, you could have a triggering and nearly claustrophobic, 3D sound experience in the “Panic Room” created by Robyn Cunningham and Ben Wegert.
For two nights, the exhibition opened with a performance piece called Nomen Nescio, in which dancers and scientists collaborated to immerse the audience into the experience of hallucinatory psychosis. On the last night, a “meet the artist” round was held; each scientist had a chance to share their intentions, motives, and materials behind their individual works. The audience heard specifics of the process and thought involved behind each piece, which were imbued with details of intent and personal connection.
Our venue, >topLab has been attracting attention before all the works in our exhibition were put up. This beautiful Altbau gallery is not only much loved in the biohacking community, but is also frequented co-working space and local hub for citizen science, regularly hosting workshops of all fl avours. Check out their website (top-ev.de) for more events ranging from physics in music to post-humanist reading groups. It’s never a dull week there!
Thank you to the ECN and BCCN for their generous contributions to our printing and production costs, Tante Frizzante for the scrumptious drinks provided, to the artists for their hard work and dedication, to >topLab for their patience and welcome, and to all our guests! From us, the organizers of EDGE, thank you to all of those who came to support this event that aimed to tear down the walls we build between art and neuroscience! We are working on making the exhibition a yearly event, and will soon be making a call-out for interested artists to participate in the next iteration!