Exploring the intersection of neuroscience and art

June 2, 2014
Laura Williams, (734) 615-4862, laurajw@umich.edu

EEG:EGG by Lia MinANN ARBOR—Lia Min works at the intersection of art and science, where her training as a neuroscientist informs her creative inquiry and her art expresses ideas and questions about the scientific enterprise.

As a research fellow jointly sponsored by the University of Michigan’s Life Sciences Institute and Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, Min divides her time between the studio and lab, exploring the interplay of science and art and examining Western and Eastern approaches to understanding and knowledge.

In “Project LIAison Progress Report,” an exhibit today through June 6 at the Life Sciences Institute, Min shows four recent works that illuminate different cognitive and emotional approaches to understanding self and the world.

“I’m interested in how we use science to peek at the human mind,” Min said.

“When scientists look at the brain, they try to be objective and reductive. There is a lot to gain from that structural view, but because the subject of study can be so personal, we project all kinds of things, and I’m trying to look at that relationship through the work in this exhibit.”

Min graduated from the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design in 2007 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science in biology. She obtained her doctoral degree in neuroscience from Harvard Medical School in 2012.

One of the pieces, “EEG:EGG,” is a lotus-shaped meditation chamber that contains a stool, a mirror and a simple electroencephalography (EEG) device. The viewer sits on the stool, facing the mirror with the EEG headset on, and attempts to clear his or her mind. As the brain relaxes, the reflection disappears.

“I was interested in the Buddhist idea of non-self, and through deep meditation you can get closer to that non-self,” she said. “The egg-shaped interior illustrates the state you are in before you’re born and exposed to societal identities — in it you can return to that ‘egg state.'”

Another piece, “Marked by Fly,” uses Drosophila fruit fly movements and graphs to show how complex behavior is reduced to data. A video piece, “Transient Self,” combines videos of Min painting disappearing self-portraits with water on rice paper.

Min is creating the fourth work on site in the LSI. She is using contact paper on two large windows looking at the same view. One will illustrate an Eastern way of looking at the landscape, and the other will show a Western approach.

Project LIAison is open to the public through June 6, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the LSI library, main floor, Life Sciences Institute, 210 Washtenaw Avenue. (parking available in the Palmer garage.) An artist’s walk-through will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 2, and on Thursday, June 5.

Min is teaching an undergraduate course on art and science at the Stamps school in fall 2014.The lectures for the course, “The Mandorla of Life Sciences and the
Arts,” are open to the public.


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