Challenges of Interdisciplinary Research in the Field of Critical (Sex/Gender) Neuroscience
In 2021-2022, Hannah Fitsch, Suparna Choudhury and I edited a special issue on new avenues and perspectives in sex-gender & brain research, with a special interest in the multi-,trans- or interdisciplinary constellations necessary to do this research. This special issue (co-published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience & Frontiers in Sociology) was prompted by a gathering of the Neurogenderings Network in 2020. In a moment in which debates around the role of biology in relation to sex and gender are especially fraught, and at a time when the climate of debate within and beyond academia is particularly polarized, this conversation warrants particular reflexivity. Our goal in this issue is to invite views on what kinds of creative investigation may be most appropriate to address the question and unsettle existing assumptions, and the methodological challenges and potential they give rise to.
Fitsch, Hannah, Flora Lysen, and Suparna Choudhury. “Challenges of Interdisciplinary Research in the Field of Critical (Sex/Gender) Neuroscience.” Frontiers in Sociology 6 (2022).
EEG-Feedback in art and science (1964–1977)
This article is published in a Springer edited volume titled Brain Art, the first comprehensive overview on art in relation to the field of brain-computer interfaces. My piece is the book’s introductory, historical chapter, in which I zoom in on the question why and how EEG – particularly EEG-feedback – became interesting as an experimental technology for artists and other experimenters around 1970. The chapter ends with a reflection on the continuing presence of public performances and staged experiments of active brains and the persisting emphasis on interface design in EEG- and BCI- research today.
Brain Art was reviewed by Cristina Albu for Leonardo journal, October 2019 (follow this link)
Lysen, Flora. “The Interface Is the (Art)Work: EEG-Feedback, Circuited Selves and the Rise of Real-Time Brainmedia (1964–1977).” In Brain Art: Brain-Computer Interfaces for Artistic Expression, edited by Anton Nijholt, 33–63. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2019.
It Blinks, It Thinks? Luminous Brains and a Visual Culture of Electric Display, circa 1930
This article traces attempts in the 1930s to create a spatio-temporal model of the active, living brain. I analyze the invention of the first “Luminous Brain Model,” a three-dimensional science education model of colored glass tubes created in 1931, to show how the visual language of illumination could serve as a flexible rhetorical tool that offered sensations of liveliness to modern viewers and promised to show a transparent view of a dynamic brain. Additionally, I discuss how various scientists in the 1930s used the analogy of the brain as an illuminated electric news ticker (a type of bulletin board with streaming headlines installed on building facades) to conceptualize temporal patterns of changing brain activity. By imagining the active brain in relation to these new display structures, I argue, scientists sought to negotiate new experiences of observing nerve activities on screens. New display devices (such as light indicators, illuminated circuit diagrams, and signaling systems) allowed novel understandings of the technical mediation of physical processes.
Lysen, Flora. “It Blinks, It Thinks? Luminous Brains and a Visual Culture of Electric Display, circa 1930.” Nuncius 32, no. 2 (January 1, 2017): 412–39.
Kissing and Staring in Times of Neuromania: The Social Brain in Art-Science Experiments
This chapter is part of a Routledge edited volume titled “Dialogues between Artistic Research and Science & Technology Studies.” The piece is an attempt to analyze the potential effects and insights of art-science collaborations by studying two specific art-science examples (too often, in my opinion, scholars write about “artistic research” in an ideal-typical way without actually studying existing art practices). In this chapter, I study two art-science experiments to demonstrate how both – in different ways – reconfigure and reconsider research into the ‘social brain.’ In the past decade, ‘critical neuroscientists’ have been particularly concerned about the field of social and affective cognitive science and the emerging concept of the ‘social brain’. In this situation, I explain, art-science experiments can play an important investigative part. Ultimately, I argue that art-science installations, as ‘entangled experiments,’ can help to reimagine the empirical and conceptual outlines of research into the social brain, but that such reflections are also always paired with other logics and tendencies, including, for example, art’s position in an innovation-oriented neuro-techno-scientific society and art’s relation to ‘neuroenchantment.’
Lysen, Flora. “Kissing and Staring in Times of Neuromania: The Social Brain in Art-Science Experiments.” In Artful Ways of Knowing, Dialogues between Artistic Research and Science & Technology Studies, edited by Trevor Pinch, Henk Borgdorff, and Peter Peters, 167–83. London & New York: Routledge, 2019.
Grey Matter and Colored Wax
The invention of X-rays in 1895 initiated public excitement about the possibility of visually recording the inside of the skull. Would it be possible to take an image of an active brain and to finally capture thoughts? This article addresses attempts in the early twentieth century to create moving images of the interior of the skull and other bodily volumes and recounts the little-known history of (dis-)section cinematography and “failed” animation machines that generated new visions of the inside of brains, vessels, plants, embryos and blocks of wax and clay. My study moves from the Berlin experiments of Karl Reicher’s Kinematografie der Neurologie in 1907, to Oskar Fischinger’s bathtub animations in Munich in the early 1920s and Douglas Crockwell’s mesmerizing “free animation” of the 1930s.
Lysen, Flora. “Grey Matter and Colored Wax.” In Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain, Vapor, Ray, edited by Katrin Klingan, Ashkan Sepahvand, and Bernd M. Scherer, 89–99. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015.
Exhibiting slick science in the Stedelijk Museum, 1962
This article traces the history of a little known exhibition titled “Visual Aspects of Science,” shown at the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum in 1962. The piece is part of a Stedelijk Studies issue focused on “exhibition histories,” demonstrating the value of using particular exhibitions as a segue into discussions of entwined political and artistic developments. “Visual Aspects of Science,” created by the German-born American designer Will Burtin, showed objects and graphics developed for commercial trade shows and public relation campaigns. Analyzing the history of this exhibition aptly shows how, starting in the 1950s, companies took part in the development of a public “image of science” and a discourse on the “public understanding of science.” Even though some artists tried to resist what they saw as the problematic slickness of commercially-influenced science exhibitions, this resistance, I argue, was not much visible in the Stedelijk Museum.
Lysen, Flora. “Blinking Brains, Corporate Spectacle and the Atom Man.” Stedelijk Studies, no. 2 (Spring 2015). (link to Stedelijk Studies)