mapping the brain and maybe the mind, victorian colors wallpaper, eggleston and the value of art

Science found that the eyes were biological mechanism that captured and focused light, not the windows to the soul – though on a poetic level they still are for many of us. Science mapped the  human genome, the tiny and elegant helical architects of life that are on permanent auto-pilot, performing functions that require our conscious minds to sweat bullets to understand. The Brain: The Connections May Be the Key to a Glimpse of the Human

Seung believes that by the end of this century, his successors will have mapped the connectome of an entire human brain. “Our descendants will look back on these achievements as nothing less than a scientific revolution,” he writes in his new book, Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are. As scientists gain the power to see the brain in its full complexity, he argues, they will finally be able to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the mind.

The breakthrough has been a long time coming. The first accurate pictures of the human brain date back to the 1660s, when English physician Thomas Willis published anatomical images created by his assistant, medical illustrator Christopher Wren. Those pictures helped destroy the ancient belief that animal spirits pumped through hollow chambers inside the brain. Yet the microscopes of Willis’s day were so crude that he couldn’t make out the fine structure of the brain’s cells. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that Camillo Golgi invented stains that could reveal details of individual neurons. Spanish scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal then used Golgi’s stains to demonstrate that the brain is a thicket of branching cells, and he hypothesized that electricity jumped from one neuron to the next.

The philosophers who have staked out the premise that the mind or human consciousness can only be understood if one introduces some mythical unknowable element to the discussion might be in for a surprise. It might be that knowing every single synapse will not explain why your sister loves blue and you much prefer greens and dark reds. Science doesn’t have to go to that level to explain that this combination of neural connections, plus this density of glial cells and a cup of environmental stimulation makes the basic you.

dried flowers victorian colors wallpaper

Just a few weeks ago I posted the Cindy Sherman photograph that broke the record for being the highest priced photo in the world at $3,890,500. William Eggleston has not broken the record for a single photograph ( that now belongs to Andreas Gursky’s ‘Rhine II’ which sold for $4.3 million), but he did break the record for a collection of photographs, 36 prints by for $5.9 million. – Why This Photograph is Worth $578,500

The first thing to realize is that in art, especially modern art, value is not simply attributed according to how aesthetically pleasing something is or how well it is made. Aesthetics and craftsmanship are certainly important, but they are by no means the sole or even primary contributors to the value of an artwork, monetary or otherwise. Those who say ‘Memphis (Tricycle)’ is not beautiful or technically accomplished enough to be worth half a million dollars are simply missing the point.

To understand which factors are responsible for the value of a work of art, you must first understand what art is. Art is a way of seeing the world. It challenges perceptions, evokes emotions and stimulates thought. All great art changes the way we see the world around us, or perhaps creates a new world all of its own. That’s what sets art apart from crafts, which are solely concerned with craftsmanship and aesthetics.

William Eggleston 's Memphis Tricycle

Eggleston’s has been called “the man who reinvented color photography”. His use of color established color film as an art form. Previously if you did art photography, you did black and white, period. Other photographers did color. Though at the time those photos were thought of as either purely documentation or a way for families to have fun remembrances. They generally were not considered art except in retrospect – the Depression era color photos by Russel Lee come to mind. I bought a book of Eggleston’s photos some years ago after I took a class in the history of photography. Besides liking his work on a pure esthetic level, I have been to some of the places he has photographed. Being almost instantly able to identify with a photographer because of shared experience is not always possible. I saw the kind of southern Gothic haze in my memories that Eggleston caught on film.

Heartless Bastards – “Parted Ways” (Studio Video)

 

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