THE BRAIN (exhibition) — Bundeskunsthalle Bonn

What defines the human mind? How can we understand the basis of our existence? The newly opened exhibition THE BRAIN in art and science in the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn dedicates its rooms to these and many more questions that are as old as human existence. The exhibition centres around one of the last mysteries of the human body — the brain — through a multi-faceted crossover of art and science. It reminds us of our biological nature while simultaneously allowing us approach one of the biggest mysteries of our existence through art and artistic practice. This is an almost intuitive collaboration, as associative processes are a common ground of neural mechanisms and art. It may seem like a kind of ironic attempt of trying to understand the brain through art while it is the brain that creates the art. But exactly that is the intention, a synergetic interplay of understanding what is happening in our brain through scientific facts and biology, but also with help of more abstract artistic works that can uncover mysteries science may not be able to grasp.

Bridging the gap between art and science, the exhibition provides insights and explanations into the human brain and identity from almost every angle you can imagine. From anatomical brain models to abstract paintings, we are guided through our own mind while the exhibition raises five questions that it aims to answer (or rather just question) scientifically and artistically:

1. What is inside my head? – We start with insights into the physical properties of the brain that our cognition builds upon.

2. How do I envision the processes of the brain? – A combination of scientific and artistic data and metaphors that are on the quest to illustrate processes that build the basis of our experiences and behaviour.

3. Are my body and I the same thing? – The old question about the duality of existence and body and soul. We find ourselves confronted with the question of what defines our self – our biological existence or our abstract definition of identity and the soul?

4. What do I make of the world? – This section is devoted to perceptual processes and how sensory experiences are formed into perceptions and realities, not forgetting how limited human perception can be when compared to other animals. How do we know what is real and what is constructed?

5. Should I optimize my brain? – A futuristic approach to evolutionary and ethical perspectives asking if and how we can improve ourselves and if we should even be wishing for progress.

Within the exhibition, you can additionally access interactive elements and virtually exhibited pieces through augmented reality. On top, the physical exhibition is accompanied by a digital exhibition you can find online. It reinterprets the five themes in form of virtual rooms where you can interactively experience new environments and unlock content on your journey through the brain.

Take your time and dedicate a whole day trip and a few rounds through the exhibition to soak up everything that is presented to you as it is packed with a multidisciplinary range of various pieces, again illustrating the difficulty and complexity of grasping what is really going on in our minds. And be prepared to use your brain (think) a lot as you will find yourself confronted with questions about identity, free will and death. You will be guided you through philosophical, psychological, and artistic developments and schools of thinking which do not lack a critical eye on scientific practices, but also philosophical theories dedicated to the understanding of the brain. The exhibition is open from January 28th until June 26th, 2022.

Link to the exhibition:

— written by Enya Weidner

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