Wednesday 26 January 2011

Public Talk Event: Dialog of Neuroscience and Art

Last weekend, there held an international symposium in our university. It was the First International Symposium on Multidisciplinary Neuroscience:
Part I : Advancement of research on the premotor and prefrontal cortex 
Part II : From cell/developmental biology to neuroscience (2nd Tohoku-UCL symposium) 

One of the keynote lectures was done by Prof. Semir Zeki in University College of London, an authority in  the field of visual cognition as well as of neuroesthetics. His books "Inner Vision" and "Balthus ou la  Wuete de L'essentiel" is translated into Japanese. Therefore, on January 21st, we held a public event, a talk by Prof. Zeki and dialog of Prof. Zeki and Mr. Tatsuo Miyajima, a modern artist as well as Vice Dean of Tohoku University of Art and Design. More than 200 people were fascinated with Prof. Zeki's talk and enjoyed thrilling conversation between Prof. Zeki and Mr. Miyajima. I served as a moderator for the hole event. 

The essence of Prof. Zeki's talk was "we see not with our eyes, but with our brain". He also mentioned that beauty is within relationship among artist, art, and audience. This concept is the same as what Miyajima says like "Art in you". Contrary to Balthus, Miyajima has read Zeki's book prior to the event, and made critical questions that deepened their conversation. I sometimes made interruption to break down difficult terms etc for the audience. Prof. Zeki also asked Miyajima like "when you feel your piece of art become perfect?", and Miyajima replied like "I feel the right timing, don't know why, nor when it comes". 

At the dinner the day before the event, I told Semir about the key concept to understand Japanese culture, especially art. There are three essentials, asymmetry, transition of the time, and imperfect, in Japanese art, craft, and design. I think these issues are rather "top down" concept, not "bottom up", or innate sense. 

We Japanese appreciate "asymmetrical" beauty, which is expressed even in the gate of the shrine. The right and left gateposts look like the same, but they are slightly different in the diameter; the right one with the shrine at your back is always a bit thicker. 

A Japanese painting is not drawn to cut a scene at certain time point. It rather expresses the transition of the scene changing according time. Usually, the scene transits from right to left. 

Japanese people like "imperfect" items. The moon on the fourteenth or sixteenth night is more appreciate than the full moon. Cherry blossoms are felt even beautiful when they are in advance because we look forward their full stage, or when they start to fallen away because we heartrendingly recall their full stage. Broken and fixed tea bowls have their original beauty, we say, and they are so much admired.

Semir pointed out that Japanese culture respects "blankness". Yes, it is true. And such "blank" area in a painting leaves the audience to imagine, with some emotional feelings such as anxiousness or hope.

I also did interview with Semir just before the public talk. It was about Paul Klee because there will be an exhibition of Paul Klee from March in Kyoto and from May in Tokyo. This will be an article in a magazine and on web. 

Overall, it was a thrilling evening, and we also enjoyed chatting over Sushi dinner.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Accident on an icy road

Yesterday, I fell down on the icy road when I came back from the lab. I was thinking about future experiments and research in my lab so that I was not sure what happened, then I saw the ground had come nearer, and next I felt my cheek became swelling so quickly. I guess some relatively thick artery had broken other than a severe scratch. Then I realized my glasses are also broken...

What shall I do...

I was going to visit a house of my friend living neighborhood after fetching a box of chocolate. I called her about the accident, which prevented me from visiting.

Then I went to an eye-glass shop to fix plastic lenses (fortunately, they are not broken!) to a new frame. So, everything seems to be not the worst. My brain, my arms, my legs, all are fine and functional, except my bad appearance on my face!

Monday 3 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Went to First Night Event in Boston. Actually, I just browsed Ice Statues in Copley and Boston Common in the evening, so in that sense it was not Fist Night (over midnight of January the 1st). Anyway, Happy New Year from Cambridge, MA!