Brainmedia: One Hundred Years of Performing Live Brains, 1920–2020. | Supervisor: Patricia Pisters.
|Date||28 May 2020|
Brainmedia: One Hundred Years of Performing Live Brains, 1920–2020 examines how scientists, science educators, and artists perform conceptions of the “brain at work.” My main argument is that approaching the history of brain and mind sciences as a history of live brains helps to see the extent of media’s imbrication in thinking the brain at work – not only of (clinical and laboratory) visualization technologies, but also of recording and broadcast media. By describing and analyzing assemblages of brains and media in particular historical contexts as brainmedia, I show how specific practices of and ideas about mediation impacted how scientists and science educators conceptualized and demonstrated the active human brain. Five key historical case studies substantiate my thesis. I analyze illuminated brain models from the 1920s until the 30s; staged brainwave recordings from the 30s to the 40s; live brains on television and conceptions of brains as television in the 40s and 50s; EEG feedback circuits and the rise of real-time interfaces around 1970; and “brain-to-brain” art-science experiments between 2013 and 2019. In my analysis of live brains, I move away from a confined view of scientific (brain) image making. Instead, I establish the urgency of analyzing performing knowledges of the live brain. My study moves between scientists conceptualizing active brains in laboratories and scientific publications, and practices of demonstrating and exhibiting live brains in public. This approach allows me to analyze the politics of fascination that impact how publics are asked to engage with brainmedia.