Seeing Ourselves: A Brain and Art Gallery Show Hits New York City

A view of the gallery space at MUSECPMI.

Visual art and neuroscience are stitched together in a new gallery show in New York City at MUSECPMI, and the results are a mixed bag of intriguing syntheses and frustrating shortcomings. MUSECPMI’s gallery space occupies the sixth and seventh floors of a nondescript office building at Eighth Avenue and 38th Street, and for the past weeks the space has been filled with a collection of paintings, photographs, sculptures, digital projections and interactive stations that all orbit around questions of the mind, identity, and medical imaging of interior spaces.

Curated by two M.D.s, Koan Jeff Baysa and Caitlin Hardy, “Seeing Ourselves” features work by some of the same brain-focused artists and scientists we’ve featured on our pages here at The Beautiful Brain, among many others (Pablo Garcia, Elizabeth JamesonJason Snyder). According to the exhibition’s press release, the intent of the show is to

encourage the sharing of institutional knowledge as well as to examine the contexts of these medical images from the perspectives of the humanities, in addition to the sciences. By displaying the most advanced medical imaging examples in conversation with other visual images, and as artwork themselves, the curators blur ingrained distinctions between art and science and encourage audiences outside of the medical communities to appreciate and to be inspired by the remarkable scientific advances. (source)

While excited by this description of a conversation between science and art in the same space, I was disappointed to find that the setup of the conversation seems to have been rushed through and dropped mid-sentence. There are no wall labels placing the scence and art into any sort of context, nor are there even identifying labels next to each piece for the artists’ names or the titles of their works. Scientific projections play on walls with no explanation of what we’re seeing. The tones set by the imagery are interesting, but we need more– even a short description would help. Because the visitor gets no orientation or context, what could have been a groundbreaking exhibition of medical imagery and artistic answers to questions of inner space has been set forth in a strange, partially thought-through manner.

Despite the disappointments in presentation, the visual dialogue established merely by placing of all this work in one space left me hopeful for future brain and art exhibitions in New York. One can imagine Pablo Garcia’s large-scale cortical butterfly pieces– wonderful to see in person for their three-dimensionality– presented next to the very Cajal images and quotations he’s inspired by, for example. I’m grateful to MUSECPMI for the first move in this direction, and eager to see what future shows will bring.

“Seeing Ourselves” at MUSECPMI will be open until Saturday, April 14th. MUSEPCMI is located at at 580 Eighth Avenue, 7th Floor at 38th Street, New York City. The gallery is free and open Tuesday through Saturday, 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

About the author

Noah Hutton

Noah Hutton is a filmmaker based in New York.

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  • I apologise to the viewers who were frustrated with the exhibition, and hope that some degree of coherence and logic was discerned by the purely visual experience. I thank the artists, friends and family who participated and helped install the works, for their positive energies and attitudes. For many, the gestalt of the exhibit overrode the lack of explanatory text. As the curator of the exhibit I was hobbled by the constraints insisted upon by the venue: “NO wall labels,” in addition to logistical errors such as inadequate, dangerous, and illegal lighting, as examples. Even the images, accompanying the online catalog essay that contextualises the show, are not displayed in the coherent sequence and groupings that were recommended. Mid-word hyphenations remain unedited; bios have been omitted and others transposed! I regret that the exhibition’s shortcomings and misrepresented online presence of “Seeing Ourselves” reflect badly on the intentions of the curator. As of 6/18/2012, weeks after the closing of the show, many issues, including damages to works, still remain unaddressed and unresolved by the venue. As of today, the only response from MuseCPMI to rectify these items has been a stony silence. I wish the venue well, and hope that it will be responsive to and grow positively from these comments.

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