Nicolas J. Bullot | University of Toronto Altering the Mind/Brain’s Base Routines Through Aesthetic Attention Art & the Brain, Illinois at the Phillips,

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Nicolas J. Bullot | University of Toronto Altering the Mind/Brains Base Routines Through Aesthetic Attention Art & the Brain, Illinois at the Phillips, April 18 2007 Slide 2 Outline | Interdisciplinary Research I will present an article which suggests that cognitive sciences combined with humanities can help us obtain a better understanding of artistic phenomena in general, the differences between ordinary and aesthetic cognition. Slide 3 Outline | Altering Cognitive Routines (S1) To that aim, the first section introduces a conceptual framework grounded in the concepts of an artistic apparatus and of an anchoring situation. (S2) A second section sketches the externalist idea that interactions between agents and external artistic situations modify and constrain agents attention. (S3) A third section introduces a hypothesis according to which a distinctive feature of many artistic situations (esp. in modern art) is that they operate as modifiers (or inhibitors) of base routines controlling object-directed attention. In other terms, works of art are hypothesized as providing us with a variety of tools to frustrate or foil our most automatic mental actions. Slide 4 Outline | Altering Cognitive Routines The article aims to describe the differences existing between the routine attention directed at ordinary individuals (objects, events) and the aesthetic attention directed at art individuals (objects, events). On a second level of reading, the present work is an attempt to understand and defend the experimental traditions developed during the history of modern art. Slide 5 1 Ontology of Works of Art | Artistic Apparatus To refer to the complex system encompassing the actual encounter of perceivers with artistic works, I will use the concept of an artistic apparatus. I will consider that an event, or a state of affairs, is an artistic apparatus if, and only if, it encompasses two components: Slide 6 1.1 Artistic Apparatus | Anchoring Situation The first component is a situation for sensory-motor anchoring, or anchoring situation. An anchoring situation is the complete set of spatio-temporal individuals, or physical events, which can be scrutinized during the perceptual and motor exploration of the work of art. It is a set of things that can be traced in perception, such as sculptures or paintings, acoustic events produced by musical instruments, installations or theatrical events. It is an artificial situation built in order to (with the intent to) receive the status of artistic apparatuses of a certain kind. Slide 7 1.2 Artistic Apparatus | Exploring Agents (Trackers, Explorers) The second condition is a set of exploring agents who explore or visit, interact with or scrutinize this anchoring situation and adopt aesthetic attitudes while perceptually tracking some target elements of the anchoring situation. Thus, the exploring agents are a group of persons whose bodies, brains and sensory-motor systems are modified by, and modify in return, the artistic apparatus (and sometimes even modify substantially the anchoring situations). Slide 8 1.3 Artistic Apparatus | Exploratory (Im)Possibilities An anchoring situation thus can be conceived of as a combination of (i) a set of exploratory possibilities and (ii) a set of exploratory impossibilities, which are available for the exploring agents and constraining the behavior of exploring agents. Roughly, the artistic apparatus as a whole is the sum of (i) the complete set of elements in the anchoring situation and (ii) the complete set of behavior adopted by exploring agents. Slide 9 2 Externalism in Aesthetics | Situated Attention The aforementioned concepts can allow us to specify the nature of certain procedures associated with the modus operandi of a given artistic apparatus. The study of attention capacities should allow us to describe interactions that take place between (i) the mental/brain states of the exploring agents and (ii) the physical states of the anchoring situation. One can specify this point through the formulation of constraints that a particular anchoring situation exerts on perceptual capacities and attention selection. Slide 10 2 Situated Aesthetic Attention | Externalist Constraint Thesis of the Externalist Constraint : In an artistic apparatus, the relations taking place among the exploring agents and the elements of the anchoring situation (i) modify the agents mental states and, more specifically, (ii) constrain and compel their attention systems by virtue of the causation exerted by determinate modifiers (i.e., singular attractors or interventions which can be made explicit by a description of the physical states of the anchoring situation). Aesthetic Consequence of the Externalist Constraint : Arguably, the causation exerted by determinate modifiers (or interventions) in the artistic anchoring situation support the exercise of aesthetic attention. Corollary : A particular artistic anchoring situation can be interpreted as a strategic system of which purpose is to modify attention/ brain systems through the reflected use of mental modifiers. Slide 11 2 Situated Attention | Pink light Slide 12 Slide 13 Slide 14 3 Aesthetic Attention | Comparative Approach The third section will deploy the Externalist Constraint in the context of the comparison between (i) ordinary routine attention directed at physical individuals (material objects or persons) and (ii) aesthetic uses of attention (i.e., aesthetic attention). I will provide conceptual tools to specify the nature of canonical artistic interventions with regard to the capacity for perceiving and acting on an individual. The analysis takes advantage of the fact that the capacity to perceive individuals and the notion of objecthood (Fried, 1998; Wollheim, 1980) have been questioned and investigated by numerous artistic projects. Slide 15 3 Hypothesis | Artistic Alteration of Routines (AAR) According to the Externalist Constraint, the interactions between agents and elements in the artistic anchoring situation imply the submission of the agents selective-attention to constraints or interventions. The idea can be specified within the framework of the theory of the role of attention in the perception of individuals. I propose the following hypothesis: Hypothesis of the Artistic Alteration of (Base Sensory-Motor and Cognitive) Routines (AAR): A key modus operandi of artistic apparatuses is the alteration (or inhibition and thus indirect control) of subsets of sensory- motor and cognitive routines that ordinarily control the attention directed at physical individuals (objects or agents). Slide 16 3 Aesthetic Attention | Argument for AAR For the sake of clarity, I will mainly focus the discussion on the alteration of perceptual routines, although the hypothesis should not be restricted to this important case. The hypothesis AAR can be derived from two important premises, which I shall consider in sequence: Premise 1 (of the grounding of active perception in sensory-motor and cognitive routines): The ordinary active perception of individuals is grounded in the exercise of mind/brain routines controlling selective attention (directed at physical individuals) (in an exogenous or endogenous way). Premise 2 (of the inhibition and control of perceptual routines): The interactions of exploring agents with certain artistic anchoring situations determine the alteration (or inhibition) of subsets of sensory-motor or cognitive routines (which ordinarily control the attention directed at physical individuals). Slide 17 3.1 Premise 1 | (Ar1) Perceptual-Motor Routines for Recurring Acts Consider Premise 1: Why need we accept that, in situations encountered in daily life, our attention is controlled by mind/brain routines)? First argument: there is a justification that has its roots in common sense. Routines are procedures which play a role in the daily and recursive activities, such as preparing a meal, making a bed, opening a door with a key, starting or driving a vehicle, booting a computer, writing, using familiar objects of daily use. Routines are exerted on paradigm target individuals, which can be domestic artifacts such as: Slide 18 3.1 Premise 1 | Target Individuals for Routines | Tea Pot Slide 19 3.1 Premise 1 | Target Individuals for Routines | Garbage & Recycling Bins Slide 20 3.1 Premise 1 | Target Individuals for Routines | Bottle Slide 21 3.1 Premise 1 | Target Individuals for Routines | Road Signs Slide 22 Slide 23 This man, for example, is much more likely to be interested in going to lunch, than paying attention to the characteristics of this token do not enter sign. He can not be certain that the one he sees today is the same as that which he encountered yesterday. Usually, and in contrast to our knowledge of works of art, one does not care about having a knowledge of road signs as particular unique individuals (singular knowledge), although one may use them daily. Slide 24 3.1 Premise 1 | (Ar1) Perceptual-Motor Routines for Recurring Acts Thus, routines are procedures that enable one to accomplish a set of recurring acts on familiar targets that are triggered by similar contexts. Insofar as daily activities include recurring acts carried out on familiar individuals, one can expect that each human agent must learn and update routines to perform such actions. Slide 25 3.1 Premise 1 | (Ar2) Hierarchy of Recursively Embedded Routines Second, there is a theoretical argument in support of Premise 1. Theoretical frameworks studying routines provide a fine-grained (almost grammatical) analysis of our daily actions as encompassing a hierarchy of recursively embedded routines. Research on routines in daily activities (Ballard, Hayhoe, Pook, & Rao, 1997; Glover, 2004; Land, Mennie, & Rusted, 1999; Zacks & Tversky, 2001; Zacks, Tversky, & Iyer, 2001) suggests that one can reduce each routine-based action in hierarchical structures. In addition, the study of perceptual routines has provided a way to develop empirical investigation of epistemic aspects of perception, such as in S. Ullmans (1984) visual routines (see also Cavanagh and Pylyshyn). Slide 26 3.1 Premise 1 | Perceptual-Motor Routines | Object Perception Third, experimental research (p. ex. Ballard et al., 1997; Land & Hayhoe, 2001; Land et al., 1999; Zacks & Tversky, 2001; Zacks et al., 2001) supports the idea that daily perception and action depend on the performance of routines associated with the endogenous or exogenous control of attention systems. The role of attention and ocular fixations in visuo-motor control, required for the normal execution of the daily activities. Slide 27 3.1 Premise 1 | Perceptual-Motor Routines | Object Perception For example, Land and collaborators (Land et al., 1999) have studied the patterns of ocular fixations during the realization of a routine task of daily life, preparing tea. Their aim was to classify the monitoring actions performed by the visual system in this type of task, which implies different types of oculomotor coordination. Their analysis of experimental data discloses the distinctive characteristics of the hierarchical structure I have just described. Slide 28 3.1 Premise 1 | Routines | Routines: 3 Characteristics Final notes on routines: Firstly, the performance of a routine is frequently dependent on automatic procedures. Apparently, many routines need neither voluntary control nor awareness of the sub-personal computations (or, at least, they can be performed without a direct consciousness of the spatio-temporal details of the operation in progress, such as precise guidance of eye movements). Secondly, routines do not uniquely relate to the control of muscles and body parts; they also operate during the control of mental activities linked to the tracking, identification or recognition of external individuals. Thirdly, the execution of a routine can determine or control the choice of the targets of attentional selection. However, the problem of the relations between routines and attention systems is complex (its solutions depend on the precise conception one adopts of each notions). Slide 29 3.2 Premise 2 | Inhibition/Control of Routines (Outline of the Argument) In the sense defined by the aforementioned claims, the idea that ordinary perception and action are grounded in routines is not trivial. However, if Premise 2 of the argument is true, this way of apprehending the status of routines in daily activities is not applicable to the case of the perception and interactions with a work of art. Recall Premise 2 : The interactions of exploring agents with certain artistic anchoring situations determine the alteration of subsets of routines (which ordinarily control the attention directed at physical individuals). What are the arguments in support of Premise 2? Slide 30 3.2.1 Premise 2 | Exhibition & 1st Order Inhibition (Ar1) First, a specific reason is linked to the procedure of exhibition, which is used in artistic apparatuses. Given an individual i (or a specific signal of this object, such as its acoustic signature), the fact that i is exhibited in an artistic anchoring situation implies, in most (but not all) cases, a withdrawal from its usual domain. It can then be used for other goals associated with its exposure in a situation. Thus, the exhibition generally implies the inhibition of grasping and manipulating gestures: in most cases, grasping or handling of the exhibited individuals are prevented or prohibited (e.g., through the use of glass boxes, stages, straps to maintain people at a distance, warnings). Slide 31 3.2.1 Premise 2 | Exhibition & 1st Order Inhibition (Ar1) De facto, the exhibition of something in an apparatus amounts to withdrawing it from the routines it is subjected to in domestic or industrial contexts. From this first point, it is tempting to think that a function of artistic anchoring situations is to untie the exhibited individuals from their dependency to mind/brain base routines. This idea may be relatively trivial when applied to the case of exhibited individuals in museums. However, the idea can be formulated within the framework of a theory of attention in which any banality disappears. Slide 32 3.2.1 Premise 2 | Exhibition & 1st Order Inhibition (Ar1) From the standpoint of the relation between selective attention and cognition, the exhibition of a physical object in an artistic situation tends to imply the inhibition/alteration of sensory-motor routines controlling the active perception of this physical object during its use in an ordinary context, in favor of other types of mental activities (constitutive of aesthetic experience). In this case, the remark is not trivial, because it can correspond to, for example, the inhibition/alteration of routines related to the recognition, the categorization and the identification of individuals. (The l...


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