Galaxy of the Brain at the University of Chicago

Aspirations / Contemplation, painting on canvas, 5 x 6 feet, Audrius V. Plioplys

The BRAIN-ART Initiative exhibit was very well received, and even was named Pick of the Week by the Chicago Tribune. The show ended at the Beverly Arts Center and moved to the University of Chicago hospitals. The title of the exhibit was changed to Galaxy of the Brain. This exhibit was displayed in the 2nd floor corridor link between the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine and the Center for Care and Discovery from November 1, 2014 through April 2015. The exhibit then moved to the 3rd floor link between the Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery and the Gordon Center for Interactive Science, in May 2015 and continues to be on display there today.

The University’s art curator, Ms. Monica Hork, prepared a write-up for this exhibit which continues to be posted at the show. Here is the beautiful and poetic text:

Considering all the recent scientific and medical discoveries about the structure and function of the human brain, it is a timely subject ripe for creative exploration as well. This unique collection of work by 24 artists was organized by Audrius V. Plioplys in support of the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) and includes topics ranging from the artists whose ranks include neurosurgeons, stroke victims and caretakers who have much more than an aesthetic interest in the subject. This was originally exhibited as the BRAIN-ART Initiative at the Beverly Arts Center in Chicago.

Since art is more about interpretation than scientific accuracy, the images evoke conceptual abstraction and emotional interaction. Each work engages the audience with an idea that contains the essential ingredients of our humanness. The physiological brain is the mechanical center of our thoughts, our feelings, our senses, our memories, our motions and our individuality. Brain activity is used to determine that we are alive from birth to death. In that context, artists look for meaning beyond function. That open ended search carries the work of scientists and doctors to another level, the spiritual level where we find purpose in our existence.

That is why the artistic interpretation of the brain is so vital and matters so much. The connection between the brain and our being is like no other in the known universe. It is our personal galaxy.

The University of Chicago, Medicine & Biological Sciences, Healing Arts Program.

Origins

As part of the exhibit, Cosmic Consciousness, which took place in January and February, 2013, at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago, two large-scale paintings on canvas (10 x 20 feet in size) from the Origins series were displayed. Further information about these pieces, and detailed images, can be seen in this website’s on-line art gallery and in the Cosmic Consciousness YouTube video.

Whirling

As part of the exhibit, Cosmic Consciousness, which took place in January and February, 2013, at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago, the four kinetic pieces of art, Whirling, were displayed. Further information about these pieces, and detailed images, can be seen in this website’s on-line art gallery and in the Cosmic Consciousness YouTube video.

Think and Wonder: coincidences do not happen

Think and Wonder festival sign on the stone bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River

On June 9, 2012, the American Academy of Neurology had the grand opening of their new headquarters in downtown Minneapolis, on the western bank of the Mississippi River, across the street from the Guthrie Theater. They had requested that my art decorate this new building, which it does. That Saturday, the opening went from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM.

The city of Minneapolis, totally independently of the Academy, organized a summer arts festival, along the Mississippi River, just a few steps away from the Academy building. This festival included visual arts, light installations, performances and live music, and was to continue, overnight, until sunrise.

The title of this art festival: Think and Wonder! It started on June 9 at precisely 9 PM!

The purpose of the Academy is to understand and treat disorders of the brain. For 35 years my art has dealt with thinking and consciousness. The opening of the new Academy headquarters, decorated with my art, ended at the same precise moment as the beginning of the Think and Wonder festival!

Coincidences do not happen…

Information / Informatika

Cubit, from the series Chromodynamics (2011)

John Wheeler (1911-2008) was a theoretical physicist who for most of his career worked at Princeton University. He collaborated with Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. His graduate students included legendary figures Hugh Everett and Richard Feynman, amongst others. He personally coined the terms black hole, quantum foam, and wormhole.

In his recently published book, The Hidden Reality, Brian Green, a physics professor at Columbia University, describes a conversation that he had with John Wheeler in 1998: “I asked him what he thought the dominant theme in physics would be in the decades going forward…He put his head down, as if his aging frame had grown weary of supporting such a massive intellect. But now the length of his silence left me wondering, briefly,whether he didn’t want to answer or whether, perhaps, he had forgotten the question. He then slowly looked up and said a single word: Information.”

Wheeler was suggesting that the things we experience continuously, matter and radiation, are secondary manifestations of a more abstract and fundamental entity: information. Wheeler was not suggesting that matter and radiation are illusory, rather that they are material manifestations of something more basic. (Parallels with Plato’s teachings are stunning!)

With Peter Gray, early next year, we will be having a large installation of site-specific art works, at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, in Michigan City, Indiana. Appropriately, the title of the exhibit will be: Informatika.

In many European languages informatika means informatics, which in turn means information science.

Deeper and non-evident concepts


Matvei Petrovich Bronstein and his 1936 equations on a background of quantized chromodynamics.

In trying to understand the essence of the world, of our own physical existence, theoretical structures that describe the forces of nature have been defined. Attempting to unify the fundamental forces has been the primary activity of many physicists, for many decades. These efforts have led to the development of string theory, and the possibility of multiple universes, including parallel ones. The primary challenge in these efforts has been to incorporate the force of gravity.

One leader in trying to quantize gravity was Matvei Petrovich Bronstein (1906-1938). In a landmark 1936 article he wrote:

“The elimination of the logical inconsistencies … requires a radical reconstruction of the theory (Einstein’s theory of general relativity)…with quantities which are unobservable in principle, and perhaps also the rejection of our ordinary concepts of space and time, replacing them by some much deeper and non-evident concepts.”

He was suggesting a total restructuring of Einstein’s theories, and the formation of entirely new concepts of space and time.

On August 1, 1937, he was arrested in Kiev, and was accused of counterrevolutionary activity. All of the charges were false. He was imprisoned, and after a summary 20 minute trial, on February 18, 1938, he was executed by firing squad that same day.

While in prison he was well remembered by the few prisoners who survived. Not only did he distract the inmates with discussions about time, but he knew an extremely large number of poems, which he would recite.

Bronstein was interested in teaching science and authored several children’s books, Solar Matter, The X Rays and Inventors of Radiotelegraph. All of these books were eventually published.

His widow, Lydia Chukovskaya, was a writer and prominent human rights activist. She kept the memory of her husband alive. To commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the first scientific discoveries by Galileo, a symposium was convened about the origins of gravity. This meeting took place in 1991 in the Sicilian city of Erice, and was sponsored in part by the World Federation of Scientists. It was during this meeting that the accomplishments of Bronstein were presented to universal acclaim. The members of he Federation were so moved that they immediately established the Matvei Bronstein Scholarship, their second named scholarship. The first one was named after Andrei Sakharov.

Bronstein’s tragic history at the hands of Stalin’s genocidal forces, is in keeping with my own concern to commemorate the 70 year anniversary of the beginnings of mass deportations by Stalin to Siberia. Matvei Bronstein’s death is as senseless as the deaths of many millions others. The Hope and Spirit program that I organized is an attempt to educate the general public about these horrific events.

In fact, what was his crime? His surname was Bronstein, the same surname that Leon Trotsky had before changing it. Stalin was actively pursuing and killing anyone who may be sympathetic to Trotsky.

Further information can be found in Matvei Petrovich Bronstein and Soviet Theoretical Physics in the Thirties, by Gennady Gorelik and Victor Frenkel.

Between the Large and the Small

Galactic Thoughts, wall installation, 8 x 9 feet, 2011

On the large side, many astronomers estimate the diameter of our universe is approximately 1028 meters.

On the small side, are the hypothesized strings of string theory. Their size is approximately that of the Planck length, 10-35 meters.

Combining these lengths together, results in 10-7 meters, or 100 nanometers (nm). This length is comparable to many subcellular organelles that provide structure and function to our neurons. Ribosomes, which read messenger RNA and create all the proteins in our bodies, are 20 nm in size. Microtubules, which provide cellular structure and movement, are 25 nm in diameter. Synaptic vesicles, which are the basis of all neuronal communication, are 40 nm in size.

Thus, between the two extremes of size in our universe, midway between the large and the small, are dimensions compatible with basic neuronal structural entities. These subcellular organelles provide the mechanisms for neuronal function, which in turn result in the emergence of our own thoughts, our own consciousness.

Thought fragments


Mindscapes was an exhibit of large scale art works on canvas, and site-specific installation pieces. This exhibit took place at the Beverly Art Center in Chicago, from February 11 through March 20, 2011. Four of the large scale art works have remained at the Center as permanent displays.

As part of this exhibit, a site-specific installation piece Thought Fragments was displayed. This sequence consists of 4 wall mounted pieces, each 8 x 9 feet in size. Over 1,000 fragments of thoughts, fragments of my own previous art works, were used. The fragments are very irregular in size and shape, approximately 4 x 5 inches on average. They were made by dry mounting previous art works on canvas, onto matting board, and then cutting them to various sizes.

The colors of Thought Fragments include the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and the secondary colors (orange, purple and green). Most of the pieces also include fragments of words.

The distribution of the fragments corresponded to cosmic patterns. Edwin Hubble (a University of Chicago alumnus, class of 1910) pioneered the study of galaxies. He defined the four basic types—elliptical, spiral, barred spiral, and irregular. Each of the four Thought Fragments installations corresponds to one of these galactic types. He also discovered that the universe is expanding, and that there was a big bang.

The Thought Fragments series is my first artistic attempt at bridging our own consciousness to that of galactic-scale existence. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that in our own central nervous system, we have 100 billion neurons, that in our Milky Way galaxy there are 100 billion stars, and with Hubble Space Telescope results, there are 100 billion galaxies.

During the opening of the Mindscapes exhibit, people were invited to take pieces of the installation “Piece of My Mind” as a gift. By the end of the evening I become mindless.

You can watch this happen on the YouTube video which you can access through this website: