The arts shape the ways that we perceive our worlds, come together as humans, and understand ourselves. In recent years, the roles that the arts have in determining, as well as in revealing, the nature of human interactions have been explored in empirical studies of psychology, social sciences, philosophy, and neurosciences.
– Is the significance that artistic practices have acquired in different times underlaid by some deep psychological or biological need of the human species?
– How do the arts act as a bridge, and a lens, for our interactions with each other, with our environments, and with our selves?
– How specifically can the arts transform our perception or social interactions?
– How do our bodies, inner feelings, and neurobiology connect to artistic expressions, and how can modifications in any of these change our relationship to art making?
– How do creation and reception of art relate to empirical research on emerging topics such as artificial intelligence, empathy, creativity, and the human brain?
Lectures and contributions by neuroscientist Petr Adámek (National Institute of Mental Health in Klecany), psychologist Rebecca Chamberlain (Goldsmiths University of London), empirical philosopher Joerg Fingerhut (Humboldt University of Berlin), aesthetician Tereza Hadravová (Charles University in Prague), psychologist and neuroaesthetician Matthew Pelowski (University of Vienna), and aesthetician Jakub Stejskal (Masaryk University in Brno)
Artworks and performances by Özlem Altın, David Fesl, Esther Kläs, and Jiří Kovanda
Series of breathing exercises by psychologist and therapist Tomáš Zuda
Translations by Josef Havránek
Organized by Zuzana Blochová, Tereza Hadravová, and Matthew Pelowski
Friday 28 July
17:00 – 17:40 Introduction of the programme by Zuzana Blochová, Tereza Hadravová, and Matthew Pelowski. Presentation of the theoretical and artistic components of the programme and our planned activities; opportunity to meet and greet.
17:40 – 18:00 Full Body Breath (An activation of the body to breathe to its full potential). Introduction to a series of breathing exercises by Tomáš Zuda. Breath is unique in that it is the only autonomous function that we can largely control consciously. Our physical and mental states trigger corresponding breath patterns. We can therefore use different breathing frequencies and depths to control our emotions, thoughts and movements. Breathing exercises are also used to both regulate and induce states of consciousness that are otherwise difficult to access. These exercises may be of interest to those who are trying to open up their intuition and creativity. In the symposium programme, which is based on intellectual and visual perception, the breathing exercises are a space for focused physical experience.
18:10 – 19:00 Affective Aesthetic Cognitivism in Neuroaesthetics. A lecture by Joerg Fingerhut. I will argue for a theory of aesthetic cognitivism that gives emotions and strong aesthetic feelings center stage when it comes to the ability of artworks to re-mediate our access to the world. I will discuss some papers from cognitive neuroaesthetics on this. Finally, I will consider a shift from an aesthetics of challenge to an aesthetics of care that might play a particular role in the setting of this symposium and poses a problem for my account of aesthetic cognitivism.
19:10 – 20:00 Quotes. Or dots? Art intervention by Jiří Kovanda. In that place there is a pond, a bench, a railing, two tourist boards... And that's where something happens. I don't quite know what it will be yet. I will probably use paper stickers. It will be a bit aggressive and a bit eco–unfriendly.
Saturday 29 July
7:30 – 8:00 Long and Slow Breathing (How to use breathing to control the mind). A breathing exercise with Tomáš Zuda offered to participants of all programme sections of the symposium
9:30 – 10:30 Intentionality. A roundtable debate with Petr Adámek, Rebecca Chamberlain, Matthew Pelowski, and Jakub Stejskal, moderated by Tereza Hadravová. The meaning and form of artistic intention – its contours, recognizability, and the role it plays in the evaluation of art – are longstanding questions in aesthetics. In the debate, we will offer an introduction to how artistic intentionality is considered not only philosophically but also in the context of empirical research and with what results. Do viewers really try to read the artist's intention directly from the perceived work? Are they often successful? And do they consider the perception of the intention to be a significant or even a key part of their aesthetic evaluation?
10:40 – 11:40 Intentionality. Sharing about the creative process and artistic intent. Continuation of the debate moderated by Zuzana Blochová and Tereza Hadravová. An understanding of the role of intention and intentionality in the work of art and in the process of creation. How solid is the original intention, how does it change during the creative process, and what are artists’ strategies for hiding or revealing it in the resulting work?
11:40 – 12:10 Basics of Pranayama Breathing. Breathing exercise with Tomáš Zuda
12:10 – 13:00 Artwork by Özlem Altın
14:30 – 15:30 Art and the Brain. A roundtable debate with Petr Adámek, Rebecca Chamberlain, Joerg Fingerhut, and Matthew Pelowski, moderated by Tereza Hadravová. Can artistic creation permanently affect or even change the functioning of the brain, its connectivity, or structure? Transversely, can the changes that occur in the brain significantly affect how we create or produce art? In the debate, we will focus primarily on the relationship between neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other neurodiverse brain states, such as Schizophrenia, and artistic creativity. The invited speakers will present their research or work in this area and open a discussion regarding how this might inform and be informed by art activity.
15:40 – 16:00 More Pranayama Breathing. Breathing exercise with Tomáš Zuda
16:10 – 17:00 Performance by David Fesl. People settled in the landscape gradually look at a group of objects.
17:10 – 18:00 The Artist's Track / Tracking the Artist. A lecture by Rebecca Chamberlain. How does visual arts practice change how we experience the world? In my research, I explore the links between artistic experience, and visual perception and attention. My work has shown that artistic practice can shape our visual experience, particularly through the mechanisms of attention. In addition, the embodied practice of art making might have important impacts on the way we experience art itself, demonstrating the symbiotic nature of art creation and appreciation.
18:10 – 19:00 First part of participatory performance by Esther Kläs. Start: Draw a line in front of yourself. Relate yourself to the line, make another line move. Move towards the lines and the other bodies (people). Don’t produce movement just because. Prefer to not move – just listen. Then move. There is no wrong movement. All is necessary. / I am interested in drawings where you can see the history of the marks. Some lines are erased because they are not necessary anymore, others stay, and some become reference points. Actions/lines that used to be important are, after a while, not important anymore, or might have disappeared, having generated others.
Sunday 30 July
7:30 – 8:00 Oxygen Advantage (How to make oxygen available to every cell in the body). Breathing exercise with Tomáš Zuda offered to participants of all programme sections of the symposium
9:30 – 10:20 Patterns of Art Experience. A lecture by Matthew Pelowski. What can happen when we interact with art? What (if anything) is shared across experiences of different people and different works? I will present a project within the framework of which we have, over the past several years, collected several thousand people’s experiences with different works of art. By assessing profiles of emotions or other phenomenal states (how did it “feel” to have the experience), and combining these with Big Data modeling techniques, I will discuss what patterns have emerged and what this might tell us about the psychological bases of art experience.
10:30 – 11:20 Second part of participatory performance by Esther Kläs
11:30 – 12:20 Documents and Monuments: Art History Meets Cultural Evolution. A lecture by Jakub Stejskal. Art historians have traditionally been involved in tracing the spread of art forms across time and space. Contemporary theories of cultural evolution aim at explaining how the spread of cultural patterns is influenced by our evolved mental biases and capacities. In my lecture, I will present what happens when art history meets cultural evolution?
12:30 – 13:00 Wim Hof Breathing. Intensive breathing exercise while lying down with Tomáš Zuda
(Mats recommended. If you don't have your own, we will provide some.)
14:30 – 15:30 Artificial Intelligence. A roundtable debate with Rebecca Chamberlain, Joerg Fingerhut, Matthew Pelowski, and Jakub Stejskal, moderated by Tereza Hadravová. How does artificial intelligence intervene in the creation, perception, and interpretation of art? Can it transform how we think about human artistic creativity and the meaning of art making or even art itself? And under what conditions, if at all, can artificial intelligence appear, or even become artistic? The invited speakers will present their thoughts on the future of art in the age of artificial intelligence, whether provided from the proverbial armchair or supported by empirical research.
15:40 – 16:10 Advanced Pranayama Breathing. Breathing exercise with Tomáš Zuda. Last breathing exercise, space for Q&A.
Petr Adámek graduated from the Department of Art History at the Faculty of Arts at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice in 2013. He received his master's degree at the Art History Seminar Masaryk University in Brno for a thesis on experimental research on artistic intention. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the 3rd Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University in Prague in the field of Neuroscience. In our team, he deals with the evaluation of fMRI, eye tracking, and behavioral data. His personal topic is the study of visual perception and its disruption in psychotic illnesses.
Rebecca Chamberlain studied for a foundation degree in Art and Design at the University of the Arts, London before moving into cognitive science. She is a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London and is currently Programme Director of the MSc in Psychology of the Arts, Neuroaesthetics and Creativity.
Joerg Fingerhut is a philosopher and 4E cognitive scientist working on emotions, aesthetics, and art. He is a research group leader and runs the Arts and Minds Lab at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HUB). At HUB he is the principal investigator for the EU-Horizon 2020 Consortium project ARTIS (https://artis-h2020.eu), and speaker of the Research Platform Neurourbanism, that investigates the impact of urban design on mental health.
Tereza Hadravová is an editor of Estetika: The European Journal of Aesthetics. In her dissertation, she dealt with intersections and overlaps between philosophical and empirical research on aesthetic judgment. Currently, she is mainly interested in the philosophy of Susanne K. Langer. This was the subject of her research in the USA, where she spent last year thanks to a Masaryk-Fulbright scholarship. She lives in Karlovy Vary and is a co-founder of the Vzbuďme Vary initiative.
Matthew Pelowski is Assistant Professor of Cognitive and Neuroaesthetics in the Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, with a dual affiliation in the Vienna Cognitive Science Hub, and is Head of the ARTIS Lab (Art Research on Transformation of Individuals and Society). He is currently the Coordinator for an EU-Horizon 2020 Consortium project TRANSFORMATIONS: Societal challenges and the arts (https://artis-h2020.eu), with a specific focus on the efficacy of arts-based initiatives for changing attitudes, behaviors, and health, and also recently started another transdisciplinary initiative, “Unlocking the Muse: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Understanding and Applying the Intersection of Artistic Creativity and Parkinson’s disease”.
Jakub Stejskal is a research group leader at the Department of Art History, Masaryk University. Previously, he held positions at the University of Basel (2020/21) and Freie Universität Berlin (2015–20). His interests lie at the intersection of archaeology, art history, anthropology, and philosophical aesthetics.
Özlem Altın explores the body at rest and the inanimate in action in her paintings, collages, photographs, and artist books. To create her work, Altın digs through a photographic collection, combining found images with her own photographs into a dense constellation of amalgams. Her complex nets of images contribute to elaborate a narrative, at times mythological, on the bodily existence.
David Fesl works with found materials, combining them into visually concentrated compositions on the border between assemblage and object. He has long focused his attention on the relationship between the work and the space and the creative process, which enables the achievement of a state of poetry.
Through suggestions of relations and relationships, of being and seeing, Esther Kläs's work appears at once as mysterious presences and projections of a poetic imagination.
Jiří Kovanda engages in an artistic practice founded on the repetition of everyday actions and gestures as a means of intervention and a stealthy and almost furtive re-signification of public space.
Tomáš Zuda studied systems engineering and clinical psychology at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University. He completed SUR training in dynamic psychotherapy and PBSP training with Albert Pesso. He has worked in drug use prevention, diagnostics, and has long been a freelance therapist, coach and trainer. He has worked in individual and couples psychotherapy, counselling, and life and executive coaching, working with groups and teams. He uses a dynamic approach, working with the body, breath, and mindfulness.