About Activist Neuroaesthetics

Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V.
Curated by Warren Neidich, Susanne Prinz and Sarrita Hunn 

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of artbrain.org, ACTIVIST NEUROAESTHETICS is a festival of events including a symposium, three-part exhibition, conference, screenings, and publications, developed by lead institution Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V. along with various local partners that will take place online and at different venues on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin over the course of 2021.

About Activist Neuroaesthetics
Under cognitive capitalism, the brain and mind are the new factories of the twenty-first century. We are no longer proletarians working on assembly lines, but cognitarians generating behavioural data that is bought and sold on futures markets (Zuboff, 2019). This data is not passive, but constitutes a new distribution that polices the sensible, perceptible, and cognitive through apparatuses of control such as Google Bubbles and Meme Magic. Just as the pioneers of cognitive capitalism realized the coming digital economy would create a crisis for labor and the production of subjectivity, so too another crisis is brewing exemplified by neural-based technologies (and their corporate counterparts like brain-computer interfaces and Neuralink) which focus upon the brain’s plasticity as its locus for capitalist speculation. 

Activist Neuroaesthetics is a generalized theoretical and aesthetic approach that refutes the dogma of what is known as Positive Neuroaesthetics. Positivist neuroaesthetics is a reductionist methodology that attempts to explain the aesthetic field and its production (artworks) by referring to neuroanatomical models aided by technology (i.e. neuroimaging). Its goals are to explain artworks, such as paintings, through its effects upon the brain’s neural processing itself rather than as something happening independently, or outside of the material brain’s jurisdiction (for example, in relation to events and processes happening in the world of art). It refutes the importance of the history of art as a causal factor in art production and conspires with capitalism to recuperate its most radical claims in order to make it palatable and normalized. 

Activist Neuroaesthetics rather concerns artists using their own histories, techniques, apparatuses, materials and theoretical constructs to investigate the same fields of knowledge as cognitive neuroscience, but to produce an alternative discourse concerning perception and cognition where events going on inside and outside the brain coevolve together and our cognitive abilities are expanded, rather than normalized. Here, the brain not only refers to the intracranial brain consisting of neurologic matter, but also the situated body and the extracranial brain composed of gestalts, affordances, linguistic atmospheres and socially-engaged interactions. Activist Neuroaesthetics refuses the cynicism of Big Data, neural consumerism and DARPA generated technologies (such as optogenetics), and instead promotes an ethics of neural plastic emancipation and neural diversity to produce artistic facts, rather than scientific ones, that are organized into a generalized paradigm of resistance.

Read The Manifesto of Activist Neuroaesthetics for more information.

About artbrain.org
Over the last 25 years, artbrain.org has developed alternative vocabularies and practices with which to rethink the fields that describe sensation, perception and cognition. Founded in 1996, artbrain.org consists of The Journal of Neuroaesthetics and Chaoid Gallery and was established by Warren Neidich and Nathalie Angles with an online launch in 1997. Since 1998, Neidich has continued the project and developed the term Activist Neuroaesthetics to describe an enactive approach to neuroaesthetics that not only understands the importance of neural plasticity in the material brain, but recognizes art as a generator of diversity which has the capacity to induce complexity and variability – which in turn is an important factor for understanding, and consciously enacting, social and political transformation.

See artbrain.org for more information.

This project is made possible with support from Hauptstadtkulturfonds.