Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures

Eric R. Kandel. Columbia Univ., $29.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-231-17962-1
In this fascinating survey of mind science and modern art, Nobel laureate Kandel (The Age of Insight) focuses on reductionism as the principle guiding ongoing dialogue between the worlds of science and art. Whereas scientific reductionism “seeks to explain a complex phenomenon by examining one of its components on a more elementary, mechanistic level,” artists employ reductionism to enable viewers “to perceive an essential component of a work in isolation, be it form, line, color, or light.” According to Kandel, narrowing the focus of brain research to the components of learning and memory helps open up the ways that humans perceive art as well as the ways that humans evolve culturally to acquire insights into the nature of the world. Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), for example, reduced figuration because it enabled him to place emotional components into his paintings, and the absence of a figure helps viewers to perceive these emotions. Kandel concludes that abstract art allows people to experience it without reference to external knowledge, enabling viewers to participate in art by projecting their own impressions, feelings, and memories on the work. Kandel presents concepts to ponder that may open new avenues of art making and neuroscientific endeavor. Agency: Wylie Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/25/2016
Release date: 09/01/2016
Ebook - 978-0-231-54208-1
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