Neuroesthetics in Theory and Praxis

Prof. Dr. Semir Zeki | Jacob Eriksen
Neuroesthetics in Theory and Praxis

Lecture and workshop series, English, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
Wednesday - Saturday, 25.9., 11-18 h, 26.-28.9.2019 each time 10-18 h, Hardenbergstraße 33, room 102

Direkt link to the registration here!

There have been major advances over the past 15 years in studies of the neural mechanisms underlying subjective experiences, such as the experience of beauty, love, desire, and hate, as well as the neural mechanisms underlying the making of judgments and taking of decisions, whether monetary, aesthetic or otherwise. Indeed the picture of the primate visual brain we have today is significantly different from the one we had even five years ago. Underpinning all else is the approach to a fundamental function of the brain, namely the acquisition of knowledge, and any approach to understanding this problem neuro-biologically would be incomplete and inadequate without discussing past philosophical contributions, especially those of Plato and Immanuel Kant. There are equally important contributions from the humanities to understanding aesthetic experiences. These range from discussions on aesthetics and theories of Form in Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer and others in philosophy, of Clive Bell in art criticism and art history, and the output and writings of artists such as Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian among others. In addition, the question of creativity in general has been addressed more comprehensively in literary works – including the works of Honoré de Balzac and Emile Zola - than in any scientific texts. The neurobiologist approaching the question of subjective mental states draw on all these sources, even if some may not be deemed to be ‘scientific’ in the traditional sense.

The course “Neuroesthetics in Theory and Praxis” will consist of five lectures by Prof. Zeki and five artistic workshop sessions led by Jacob Eriksen.

Leistungsanforderungen: aktive, regelmäßige und verbindliche Teilnahme; Neugier und Experimentierfreude
Ausrichtung / Charakter der Lehrveranstaltung: orientierend, kritisch
Aktivität / Kompetenz der Teilnehmer*innen: reflektieren/denken, artikulieren


Semir Zeki was appointed Professor of Neuro-aesthetics at University College London in 2008, having previously held the Chair of Neurobiology there. He specialized in studying the organization of the visual brain and has since also contributed to studying the neural mechanisms that are engaged during affective experiences, such as those of beauty, love, and desire. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, London. He holds four honorary doctorates in science and medicine. Books: A Vision of the Brain (Blackwell, Oxford, 1993); Inner Vision: an exploration of art and the brain (OUP, 1999); Splendors and Miseries of the Brain (Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, 2009); La Quête de l'essentiel (Les Belles Lettres, Paris) and La bella e la bestia (jointly with L. Lumer, 2011). His artistic work, based on his knowledge of colour vision, was exhibited at the Pecci Museum of Contemporary Art, Mian in 2011 under the title of Bianco su bianco: oltre Malevich(White on White: Beyond Malevich).

Jacob Eriksen is a sound artist, electronic musician and theorist living and working in Berlin. He holds a M.A. in Sound Studies from University of the Arts Berlin and a B.A. in Musicology, Philosophy and Modern Literature from University of Copenhagen and York University. As a (sound) artist and theorist Jacob Eriksen is with inspiration from existentialism, post-structuralism and speculative realism researching the realm of auditory perception conceptually as well as aesthetically. Furthermore he is teaching in cultural studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.