Faux/real : the biology of consciousness

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Amanda Elizabeth Stephens (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://library.wcu.edu/
Richard Tichich

Abstract: Consciousness begins when an experience with the physical world initiates a brain-body perception and response feedback cycle as one acts, absorbs, reacts, processes and rationalizes information. French phenomenological philosopher Merleau-Ponty wrote, “The body is the vehicle of being in the world, and having a body is, for a living creature, to be involved in a definite environment, to identify oneself with certain projects and be continually committed to them.”(Merleau-Ponty) Merleau-Ponty speaks of a biological bodily experience. My thesis exhibit investigates this idea of the biology of consciousness through an installation environment that enfolds the viewer. The environment employs magnifying devices to encourage a closer look in order to echo the idea of the whole and the outward-inward feedback of perception and to assert the importance of first-hand experience with the world. Inside the gallery space, the viewer confronts an 8’x8’ plastic covered green house in the middle of the gallery. Projections from the top of the greenhouse structure onto three walls reveal three different perspectives from inside the structure. The first projection displays a wide-angle perspective from inside the structure. The second focuses on a fish tank of plants and vegetables. The third projection, from a camera hidden in the vegetation, exposes the eye of the viewer looking into one of the magnifying glasses. Upon entering the greenhouse the viewer meets an array of vegetables in different stages of life, growing out of jars and aquariums, each lit by its own grow light. Many of the vegetable terrariums have magnifying devices to encourage a closer look. By entering the space and finding encouragement to investigate the parts more intimately, the audience senses an echo of the experience of the perpetual outwardinward manner of human perception. The experience with very real living plants in contrast to the fake grass ("Astro-turf") stimulates an awareness of human biology as inextricable from the cycle of human consciousness. In his book, Out of Our Heads Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness, Alva Noë, a professor at the Graduate Center, CUNY, states: “The brain is not the thing inside of you that makes you conscious because, in fact, there is no thing inside of you that makes you conscious. It would then turn out that contemporary neuroscience has been in the thrall of a false dichotomy, as if the only alternative to the idea that the thing inside you thinks and feels is immaterial and supernatural is the idea that the thing inside you that thinks and feels is a bit of your body: we’ve been thinking about consciousness the wrong way, as something that happens in us, like digestion, when we should think about it as something we do, as a kind of willed, living activity.” Informed by artists like Mel Chin, whose installation “Revival Fields” addresses ecological and sustainable issues, Faux/Real also involves sustainable implications. However, this exhibit differs in its focus on biology as it pertains to consciousness.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
consciousness, environment, hyperreal, Installation, interactive art, sculpture
Installations (Art)
Consciousness in art
Biology in art

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