definitely male and in a sombre mood
definitely not just a hunk of metal
definitely male and in a sombre mood
definitely not just a hunk of metal
This story about “information artist” Heather Dewey-Hagborg creating art (face) portraits made based on genetic information from strangers is not new, but it is new to me and I think interesting
I’m regretting that I never found the time to write about the works displayed at Sculpture by the Sea 2012 at Cottesloe because I know I had in mind to try to explain why Highness by the Iraqi Australian sculptor Ayad Alqaragholli had such an immediate impact on the viewer and appeal. The sculpture reached high into the clear blue summer sky and sea air, depicting a scene of human acrobatic performance with a joyful mood. I noticed that our young child felt compelled to perform handstands on the grass near the sculpture after viewing the piece of art, and I wondered whether there was something deeply psychological about the way it is typically received by people, perhaps evoking some kind of mirror-neuron activity. I was also fascinated by the way in which the emotion of joy had been depicted in the piece using body-related metaphors of reaching, expansion and elevation. The emotion of joy had been embodied in the sculpture, so was this sculpture something to do with embodied cognition? I felt that it must have. Regardless of the theory that might be read into the scuplture, it was my personal favourite for that year. I just liked it. We enjoyed it.
Not long ago I spotted this local newspaper article by Tanya MacNaughton about Ayad Alqaragholli and another one of his works, Embrace, which is exhibited in this year’s Cottesloe outdoor exhibition:
and his new sculpture seems to have a similar theme, and once again I thought it was clear that there is some kind of metaphorical thinking in his work which I feel is similar to embodied cognition:
“There’s so much freedom for young people even when they’re just walking down the street; I like to have people flying in my artwork to show how happy they are.”
Flying = happy
up = happy
down = sad
freedom = flying
repression = trapped
imprisonment = held down
This is a scheme connecting emotional states with spatial locations, and social situations and feelings with physical situations. It seems to be one or two kinds of synaesthesia, but could also be interpreted as embodied cognition because after all, it is human bodies that are depicted in Mr Alqaragholli’s sculptures.
I can’t wait to get to Cott Main Beach to see the exhibition. Can’t wait to see all the sculptures! Can’t wait to have a dip too and take some photos and see the sunset over the sea and hear the noise of the feral rainbow lorikeets roosting in the tall pine trees. I love summer in Perth!
When I look at this ad I can’t help thinking about the letter Y. He is such a happy and friendly personality. Here he is playing with some dogs in a park:
How creepy is this? Another example of a sculpture or creative design that features personification added to the form of an everyday object. My particular interest in personification is my own theory that personification synaesthesia (as experienced by myself) or something like it gives rise to superiority in face memory (or being a super-recognizer) by naturally making the faces of unknown people more memorable and interesting. But the personification of objects is not limited to synaesthetes or people with unusual perception of faces. The personification of objects is a theme that can be found in sculpture, design, art and advertizing, and I’ve written about an photographed many examples at this blog. Not all personification in sculpture or design takes the form of a face, as in this creepy sideshow ride car. One could say that the fanciful face of this pretend car is a reference to pareidolia, which is a psychological phenomenon in which the mind interprets random or vague images or stimuli as having a pattern or significance. Some classic examples of pareidolia are seeing animals in clouds or seeing faces in rock cliffs orhearing voices in white noise. Even though the fronts of motor cars have little in common with faces (except that maybe a person looks forward through both, and a mouth and a radiator grille are intake openings), the pattern of two headlights above horizontal design features in a symetrical layout at the front of a car makes the human mind think of a face. It is thought that we are so sensitive to face-like patterns because our minds are designed to look for faces. All the same, I’d rather not have to look at one as creepy as this one.
If anyone knows the details of this whimsical sculpture at Glendalough Railway Station on the Joondalup Line which looks as though it is made of bronze, please let me know. Tourists do like to use it as a seat, which is a bit of fun. I guess the inspiration was the phrase “legs of a chair”.
I don’t know what inspires a sculptor to create a work depicting a piece of fast food with human characteristics, but I think it does demonstrate how much the personification of things that aren’t persons is a ubiquitous part of human psychology, not only for those of us who naturally personify numbers and letters with one variation of synaesthesia. Judith Forrest might be horrified if I compare her work with those cute hamburgers with faces that decorate the tops of poles in the drive-thrus of McDonalds restaurants, but I will anyway. Another odd fact which I can’t explain is that this new playground isn’t the only one in the Perth metro area which features one or more sculptures of personified objects. The Piney Lakes Sensory Playground south of the river includes many striking and whimsical sculptures including some personified letters of the alphabet, which for me, a multi-synaesthete with ordinal-linguistic personification, have a special appeal. I think those sculptures might be the work of Anne Fine, and I’ve written about them in the past.
The inclusion of sculptures in a new playground is some indication of the level of quality of this new property development. I’ve spent many a happy hour supervising kids in WA playgrounds, but I think this small playground is the best example I’ve seen of bringing the beauty of the natural local landscape, flora and fauna into a park and playground area. This is an attractive, intelligently-made playspace with play equipment that kids genuinely enjoy, and recreational areas for families that are a pleasure to use. The only issue is a lack of toilets, but I guess that is because this park was created for local residents. If you sit still, tiny blue wrens can be seen darting about in the bushes of WA coastal native plants around the playground at sunset. I wish the Opportunity Playspace on Scenic Drive in Wanneroo (Rotary Park) was a bit more like this wonderful playground. I don’t know exactly who created the Agora Village Square Park, but I’d like to say you’ve done a top job.
Even though I no longer live near Cottesloe, I make a point of visiting Sculpture by the Sea every year, with at least one of our kids in tow. We love it, and we love swimming at Cott Main Beach (not too deep though, we aren’t that daring). In the last few years I’ve visited with the child of ours who has as strong an interest in the sculptures as I do, so I’ve been able to take my time to really appreciate the pieces, and in doing this to memorize the sculptures seen, in context in their locations. This means that as I tour through the various highly memorable locations along the foreshore of one of Perth’s oldest beaches, I get to visually experience things that are there, and also things that once were there at that exact location. The organizers of the exhibition unavoidably re-use many specific locations for situating sculptures from year to year, so when I look at a sculpture I also often see in my mind’s eye a sculpture that was at that spot last year, or maybe in a year before that. This is an example of the unconscious or unintentional employment of the method of loci memory technique. I have written other posts at his blog about similar experiences of mine and our children in which we have memorized stuff with this or a similar method by accident, and I have even given a name to this phenomenon; involuntary method of loci memorization or IMLM for short.
Standing and looking at many locations along the Cottesloe Main Beach foreshore also evokes memories of family and personal visits to the beach in past years, in addition to the over-laying of more recent memories of the annual sculpture exhibition which has been operating in Cottesloe since 2005. Memories evoked include the time we ate fish and chips there when we were still unmarried, the day I unexpectedly met an elderly aunt (she’s long-dead now), then paddling with her and being shocked by finding a scallop that was unexpectedly alive, memories of many visits with my mother, a sibling and a grandmother which are sometimes also evoked by listening to a specific piece of music from the 1980s, and memories of swimming with my sibling at night in the cold fresh-water pool that was once situated near the groyne, the water tasting strangely sweet following the taste of salt water from swimming in the sea. I could point out the specific locations where I saw the dead whale and also where I touched the rough skin of a large dead shark that someone had displayed like a trophy at the shoreline, both events witnessed when I was a child. There probably isn’t a public place in Perth that evokes as many memories for me as Cottesloe Beach. If there is a neuron or a location within my synaesthete brain “for” Cottesloe Beach, it is surely thickly surrounded by many connections.
The 10th annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Cottesloe will be open from March 7th to March 24th 2014. I can’t wait. http://www.sculpturebythesea.com/exhibitions/cottesloe.aspx
I’ve been following with great interest the Mindscapes series of articles in New Scientist magazine by Helen Thompson. This week is no less fascinating, maybe even more. It’s about a man whose personality changed following two strokes, paradoxically transforming from criminality to sensitivity, with the strokes also triggering an unstoppable surge of artistic creativity. The artist’s name was Tommy McHugh. He passed away last year. Such artists by virtue of brain transformation are sometimes labelled as acquired savants, and the interesting thing is that they often seem to experience synaesthesia, which raises the question of whether they were always synaesthetes or perhaps synaesthesia is latent in all people, and can be uncovered by changes in brain functioning. What especially interests me about McHugh’s art is the extraordinary focus on faces in his paintings and also sculptures, many of them having such subtle depictions of multiple faces that they could be described as a celebration of pareidolia. Colour is also clearly an aspect of visual experience that McHugh enjoyed experimenting with. I was also struck by McHugh’s description of what it was like to have the first stroke; when he woke up in hospital he saw a tree sprouting numbers. That sounds like just the type of non-psychotic hallucination that Oliver Sacks described in his recent book Hallucinations. It is my understanding that faces, colour and graphemes including numbers are all processed in the fusiform gyrus. The fusiform gyrus is also believed to be involved in at least some types of synaesthesia. I know about this stuff because I have experienced synaesthesia involving faces, graphemes, colours and just about everything that goes on in the fusiform gyrus, and I’m apparently naturally gifted in face memory ability. It looks as though McHugh could also have experienced synaesthesia, judging by the title of one painting “Feeling the Feelings Tasting Emotions”. Yes, I’ve experienced that too. A few years ago I speculated that the famous synaesthete Bauhaus artist Kandinsky showed a focus on the things processed in the fusiform gyrus in one of his paintings (Upward), including a face that could be missed by viewers not gifted with a goodly dose of pareidolia. This might be what happens when your fusiform gyrus gets off it’s leash, and McHugh insisted that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
I have just added more text to an old post about sculptures in a park/playground in the Perth suburbs and synaesthesia. I have briefly described some types or nuances of synaesthesia that I experience, which could be things that are new to synaesthesia research. To me they are pretty ordinary experiences.