Installation consisting of:
2 Photo prints (185 x 125 cm and 100 x 100 cm)
2 stainless steel small pots, one filled with water, one with cat food
1 small (Eastern meditation) pillow
projection PAL 4:3
2 computer screens 4:3 on 2 pedestals
2 small cards 'BEFORE' and 'AFTER'
Concept & realization: Frank Theys
Production: Transit Gallery Mechelen / VOTNIK
Thanks to prof. dr. Yang Dan
This installation is a tribute to the Chinese American scientist Yang Dan, who managed to tap an image from the brain and reconstruct it on a computer. It is the first time that an ‘im-mediate’ image was created straigth from the brain. The research was commited on cats. It is fascinating that, however the cats were shown images of humans, there is an impression that the final output image got something catlike.
With this installation Frank Theys reflects on the implications of her scientific research in the context of art philosophy. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer preferred music to all other art forms because it could 'immediately' (without mediation) express the Will. All other art forms have to call on mediation through words or images for representation. In the modern visual arts, there has been a continuous quest for that same kind of directness. Jean-François Lyotard for example saw this quest for the presentation of the 'unrepresentable' as the motto of modern art. Ideally, communicating the unrepresentable would happen by communicating directly from one brain to the other, without mediation. This is in fact what Dr. Yang Dan tries to do, in a scientific way, by tapping the data from the brain and reconstruct the information on a computer screen. On this first level of the research however, she has to check if she understands the data correctly, she needs to turn back to representation. The (moving) image remains the best possible way for our brains to comprehensively grasp a complex stream of data. In the reconstructed picture, the face of the person can clearly be discerned, though we cannot shake off the impression that the face has adopted a feline touch.
“Onderzoek naar de visuele waarneming hebben kunstenaars altijd verricht, vaak in relatie met de wetenschap. Beelden maakten zij in analogie met wat wetenschappers vertelden over wat in het oog geschiedde. In de renaissance geloofden ze in perspectief en gaven ze aan het beeld een centrale en evenwichtige compositie. In het begin van de twintigste eeuw spatte het beeld uiteen in fragmenten, alles bestond uit kubistische deeltjes die vrijuit bewogen als atomen. In het huidige tijdperk van technologie en media blijkt het beeld verder te versplinteren. (…) Kunst of wetenschap, bij Frank Theys is alle macht aan de verbeelding.”
– De Standaard, Jan Florizoone “Het oog is een camera” 11 jan. 2001
“Boeiend werk presenteert Frank Theys. In de ruimte word teen fascinerend experiment gedocumenteerd dat plats had in Los Angeles. In de hersenen van een kat werden elektroden ingeplant die ons via de computer vertellen hoe het dier reageert op visuele prikkels. Het experiment toont met andere woorden wat een kat ziet. an de hand van video’s, foto’s en een film kan de toeschouwer zich in diot experiment inleven.” Jan Van Hove, Kunstenaars veroveren Thurn & Taxis,
– De Standaard 15 sept. 2001
“Yang Dan, professor of neurobiology at the University of California, recorded the activity of neurons in the brain of a cat. So she made a realistic representation of the image a cat conceptualizes from reality. This subjective image from the cat she compares with the ‘real’ picture of the recorded reality. Frank Theys flew to San Francisco to interview the professor. This interview is the first thing you get to see as soon as you enter the gallery. Here you can also compare images from Dan’s research: the input (what that cat is shown, e.g. a scene from ‘Indiana Jones’) and the output (what the electrodes register in the brain of the cat: how Harrison Ford looks like through the eyes of a cat). These images are shown on video, but also on print, where you can even more clearly see the resemblances and the differences.
In the back of the gallery a TV monitor is placed on the floor with a video of two young cats playing with a fly. Endearing images of how kittens are watching a fly. But nobody thinks about what the kittens will do in a few seconds with the fly which is even less charming than what happens with the cats in professor Dan’s lab, when the electrodes are placed on the brains in their skull.
Fortunately Frank Theys is an artist and not a scientist. Because - at present at least – they are still the most in touch with how people perceive reality. Theys knows perfectly well how he has to move our perception into a certain direction. Some parts of the exhibition are therefore also put into scene by him. Theys is not a Panamarenko, he is not an apprentice-magician, but a master-artist. Such one as Vélasquez who portrays himself and the as king dressed up spectator in ‘Las Meninas’.”
– Pieter Van Bogaert, De Financieel-Economische Tijd, Wednesday 20 December 2000