Ideas Matter Sphere – Pattern Completion – Neuroscience meets Visual Art & Sound

Elizabeth Murton, http://www.elizabethmurton.co.uk our ZAP / DIY Educate Colleague also runs

http://www.ideas-matter-sphere.com a catalyst for cross disciplinary discussion. Below are my notes on the intriguing talk I attended- engaging and thought provoking….

In 2010 neuroscientist Hugo Spiers, sound designer Tom Simmons and artist Michaela Nettell developed an audio-visual installation to explore ways in which networks of brain cells recall memories.


Hugo Spiers

Neuroscientist and lecturer at UCL

Hugo’s research is concerned with how we use our brain to remember the past, navigate space, and imagine the future. www.ucl.ac.uk/spierslab

What is a memory? Life-defining moments. Memories such as your first kiss are encoded in the brain. But how do you retrieve those memories ten years later? The hippocampus is a crucial part of the brain for memory – if part of the hippocampus is damaged you may lose all your memories. Thousands of cells in your brain get excited by experiences e.g. going to a bar, that contains memories of other times (it was great to be in a bar): the emphasis of excitement.

A lot of memories are spatial: your brain is constantly processing and structuring the space around you.

What are memories? Spatial understanding.

Information pulsing between connectors takes information from the physicality of the situation – sound and sight. Cells get excited by that sight and sound re-emerging. So a name in itself reverberating in your brain can summon up sight and sound of that person. Memories can be incredibly faulty – we add to the stories taking on board other perspectives and context. Fragility of memory.

Voluntary and involuntary memory – both are important in evolutionary terms e.g you may not have a specific memory of a dangerous situation but an instinct will come into play.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – regions of the brain that deal with memory and anxiety are very closely connected, in some cases people cannot escape these experiences of trauma.

Michaela Nettell

Visual artist

Michaela creates videos and installations that explore the potential of projection techniques to affect relations of space, optics and memory.

The collaboration developed from Michaela’s 2007 video installation Bathysphere, in which snippets of video relating to water – traveling on water, bubbles, swimming – were projected into a constellation of glass spheres. Suspended in space the spheres become capsules for fleeting memories, triggering narratives and associations. Her work is informed by the materiality of glass and relationships between glass and projected light.

In Pattern Completion woodland scenes are projected in fragments into an arrangement of four glass spheres. Sounds and images are shuffled between the spheres so that compositions that initially appear jumbled gradually come together into coherent scenes. Gaps between spheres mean that the scenes are always incomplete – audiences are invited to fill in the spaces with memories of their own. Imagery of pathways and clearings important to enhance sense of distance and depth; also to lead your eyes into the picture, trains of thought.

Scenes are empty of people and events so audiences can develop their own experiences and memories based on what they see. The installation aims to be conducive to memory but doesn’t offer specific narrative.

Visual sequences created through a manipulated time-lapse effect. Emphasising intervals, spaces between, expanding time. Helps you engage, allowing time to experience processes within the image and within the installation.

Tom Simmons

Sound designer and Senior Lecturer at Norwich University College of the Arts

Tom’s work focuses on ways in which we perceive and experience sounds and animated moving images.www.tom-simmons.net

Sound recordings provide precise spatial details about the forest surroundings, establishing relationships between sounds and images. Large and small scale recordings – from whole environments to close objects and liquids; recordings taken at different times of day and night.

Sounds are experienced through wireless headphones – audience free to move through installation space, changing relationships between projected imagery and sounds.

Listening space – size of glass spheres and relationship to our heads.

Embodied – rather than immersive – installation experience.

Discussion notes

Navigating the future – your brain prepares you for future scenarios by coming up with maps of situation, not just geographical but relationally, especially during sleep.

Enjoy and engage!


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The Rise and Rise of Transition Gallery…

ZeitgeistArtsProjects, 14th June 2012.

Cathy Lomax & Alli Sharma

Renowned artists, curators and directors of independent and innovative artist led-gallery and magazine Garageland & Arty.


Cathy Lomax is an advocate of just doing things, ‘I didn’t think too hard and fast about marketing etc. people came to Transition and it grew

The initial idea was to have a place to show my work and that expanded
Arty magazine, is a similar idea to gallery.Cathy started magazine to showcase works as well.
People were interested in it-there is nothing like encouragement to make you keep going , so that’s how Arty started.
Saatchi buying Stella Vine’s work at an early show was really interesting. Saatchi at that time was visiting east end galleries. He bought Stella’s work and then used it to publicise a show at Saatchi so it was a fantastic career boost for her.
Later on they had a solo show with Emma Talbot. Saatchi bought an entire wall of works.

August 2005: Alex Michon and Cathy Lomax put on their show The English Museum in August http://www.transitiongallery.co.uk/htmlpages/englishm/em_pr.html

There was a lot of press as August such a dead month usually in the art world that people wanted to write about us.

Moving from the Garage to current space in Regents studio in Hackney.

It was more on the art route so that was really useful.

Alli and Cathy are pop culture fans. Like quirky names, quirky themes.
Started up Garageland – a biennial mag, thematically produced. Current one is about Paint, future one about Film.

@cathylomax is planning a big project with Hackney Picture House with a show of her works and to launch the Garageland film mag.
Alli Sharma talking about curating.

Fade Away was a show Alli curated which also toured from Transition across the country, 43 works, selected in 2010.
The idea for Fade Away was about the mix of representation and abstraction

Barry Schwabsky, an art critic,wrote an amazing text and we were thrilled he wrote it. Sometimes you have to ask,you never know who shall say yes!

Alli Sharma runs a fantastic blog ‘articulated artists’ exploring artists practice &processes.


TIPS: When you approach a gallery, really research the gallery, visit. People approach us that have never been to the show. They do look at all the submissions and some go on file. But you should know the space first.

Keeping in touch, building a relationship with artists is important..

How did Cathy meet Alli?

Emma Talbot was a Tutor of Alli’s and was in a show at Transition
Mix of established artists and younger artists
Alli wanted to be involved in something more than just doing her work.
It’s a fluid organisation.its a not-for-profit org. we don’t have a salary.
Just started press with networking extraordinaire Corinna Spencer @corr has joined Transition as Marketing. An excellent social media networker extraordinaire.
3 directors, Alli, Cathy and Alex Michon and 3 interns. Are a proper limited company&
We don’t represent artists officially but we do work with some artists on an informal basis

Interns? They tend to stay but It’s not always exciting, but we try &get them involved in interesting projects. The people who get the most out of it are the ones who understand what we do.

What was Sluice Art Fair like?

Sounded different and had different ethos which was great. Was very busy.

Has your work suffered as a result of running Transition Gallery?

No it hasn’t, it has improved. There are other opportunities that sometimes come about because of it. You can get more respect from others because you are running your own project so it balances the power.

The idea of artist/curator is more accepted than it was 10 yrs ago.

How do you balance it all?
It’s a question of prioritising. You have to be disciplined!Transition is part of our practice.