By Tim Sandle
San Francisco - The official title of the new event is “The Institute Presents: Neurosociety” and it premises and immersive experience of the senses. The event has been developed with former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.
David Byrne opens theatrical neuroscience exhibit
The new experience is a 60-minute curated event, part theatrical experience and part scientific discovery. Groups of ten people will explore recreations of pioneering research from leading neuroscience, psychology and sociology institutions across four rooms. The idea is that rather than people passively gazing at exhibits, they immersive themselves with the installations and engage with the research outcomes.
The experience was the idea of David Byrne, who is co-founder of the influential band Talking Heads. Byrne is a solo artist, film-maker and theatre producer. With the development Byrne worked with Mala Gaonkar, who is a technology investor who also undertakes several non-profit projects, seeking to shift community behaviors and biases.
According to David Byrne: “Guides in lovely arsenic green lab coats meet you in each room. They explain what you are experiencing… In an hour you will be embodied in the body of a doll, predict elections, see clearly moving objects as still, deal with moral dilemmas and more.”
One of Byrne’s goals was to ensure that the participating institutions learn as well. Here he told Pitchfork “I think the labs will see there’s a way to collect data from this. Instead of a small pool of 50 students, you might get 1,000 people from different demographics.”
With the doll, The New York Times has reviewed this part of the exhibit. The doll was previously exhibited as “Being Barbie” in 2011 and it is designed as a scale experiment. The doll was developed by Henrik Ehrsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The experience involves “lying on a recliner, wearing goggles that show you a small doll’s limbs stretched in front of you in place instead of your own, and having your leg prodded or stroked simultaneously with the doll’s.” The purpose is to change people’s perception of the size of an object in view.
Vogue reviews another of the experiences, this time it’s about illusion and it is called We See Things That Are Impossible”. With this the way audience members see is tracked and explored through their photoreceptors. These are flashing lights that burst into the room and then disappear. This creates “the illusion of light and color in the darkness, what is called an “aftereffect.” The aim is to explore how art ‘exercises’ the brain.
The experience promises to add a theatrical touch to science, with a dribbling of art and education. It promises to offer a new way of engaging academia with the general public in order to allow two-way communication over some key topics that affect everyday life, experience and perception.
The curated experience is taking place in a former car showroom in Menlo Park, Silicon Valley, under the auspices of Pace Art + Technology (hosted by Pace Gallery's branch in Palo Alto).