The Copenhagen Neuroaesthetic Conference / by Kerri McGill

The philosophers and psychologists all talk about the beauty and pleasure art brings. They attest that pleasure is what drives the production of art. Where can my send a letter of dispute?...after I wrote this I realized I had more writing to do...

This past Sept 24-26, 2009, the University of Copenhagen hosted their first Neuroaesthetics Conference. I found out about it last March and went through a lot of trouble, ie. reading, to put together a poster submission. My reading was unstructured and all over the board. I made it fit.

As the second week in September rolled around, I knew it wasn't happening. Understandable. I haven't written a science anything since high school. Of course I was out of my league. They were rats for not at least sending a rejection letter, just for courtesy's sake.

Late Tues. night, Sept 15th, I get the e-mail: Congratulations. You're poster's accepted. The conference is next week. We had some technical problems..Sorry. !!!
Sept 16, finish painting living room/juggle Credit cards, buy a ticket, Sept 17 finish painting the livingroom for real, take down my largest art show, Sept 18, pull out notes from March, relearn, Sept 19, borrow a mac, learn mac, make a poster, Sept20 print poster, pack. Sept 21, leave.

What follows is the most wonderful time of my life, which is why I have no idea how to write about it properly. The conference organizers are Soren Kaspersen, Jon O. Laurig, and Martin Skov. The quality of company and conversation throughout the presentations and into the pubs is of a rare caliber.

A whole review is being written by a much more knowledgeable participant. I will revisit different aspects of the trip in a more stream of conscious way. The speakers are amazing. The subject matter is intriguing...and sometimes a little over my head. I will start with Helmut Leder's talk...tomorrow.


My reading:
My favorite, Gerald Edelman, neurobilologist writes on "Neural Darwinism" and consciousness. Denis Dutton is a philosopher whose book, Art Instinct, is a dry read with ideas that stick. James Elkins, an art historian delves into the element that triggers people to weep before works of art in Tears and Pictures. He came up w/a tidy list of visual triggers which I reviewed and discarded as I welled up at the MET in front of a bunch of Monets... so irritating... Jonah Lehrer has great articles in SEED magazine. Of course it all starts with Semir Zeki one of the forerunners of neuroaesthetics.