Eric Kandel + George Prochnik
Mnemonic Art Tour in the galleries
Karma Chain on the spiral staircase
Program in the theater
In The Age of Insight Eric Kandel skillfully reinvigorates the conversation between art and science that began in Vienna 1900. The central challenge of science in the twenty-first century is to understand the human mind in biological terms -- to discover how the nerve cells in our brain give rise to perception, memory, emotion, empathy, and creativity. This new science is important not only because it provides a deeper understanding of what makes us who we are, but also because it lays the groundwork for a meaningful dialogue between neuroscience, the arts, and the humanities. Such a dialogue would integrate scientific ideas into contemporary intellectual discourse and thus serve to enrich our culture. The Age of Insight takes up this central scientific challenge by exploring what we have learned about the relation between science and our response to art from Vienna 1900 to the present.
George Prochnik, whose father escaped from Vienna in 1938, the same year as Eric Kandel, is the author Putnam Camp: James Jackson Putnam, Sigmund Freud & the Purpose of American Psychology. This study of Freud's 1909 visit to the New World and the philosophical debate that ensued among America's medical elite was a recipient of the Gradiva Award and a New York Times Editors' Choice. His essays on Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and other members of the "coffeehouse canon" have appeared in the Daily Beast and the Quarterly Conversation. After the publication In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise (Doubleday, 2010), he started work on an intimate portrait of Jerusalem that delves into the city's natural and supernatural histories. Prochnik has also conducted interviews of well-known psychoanalysts, historians and writers for the NYPL LIve series, including Adam Phillips and Simon Sebag Montefiore.
Presented in partnership with The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives
Mnemonic Art Tour
Take advantage of a short tour of some paintings in the collection that function as mnemonic devices. The iconography in these paintings serve to reference specific passages in the sutras. That is why most of these works were not meant to be revealed to those who were not already initiates. The tour will include two types of paintings: narratives such as the life of the Buddha, and mandalas which are complex two-dimensional diagrams of one’s multi-dimensional state of mind.
As a prelude to the staged program, we are planning to stage a simple game of ‘telephone’ prior to the session to demonstrate the fallibility of oral transmission and the nature of short-term memory. Each ticket holder will stand on one of the steps of the 108-stepped spiral staircase of the Museum. The guest speaker stands at the base, whispers a short phrase they have prepared to the visitor on the first step, and the phrase would spiral up through the line until it reaches the ear of the scientist. The conversationalists will only reveal the original phrase and the result phrase when on stage in the theater, thus starting the conversation about memory.