The human faculty of perception touches upon both spheres of the brain. Quite the contrary to most art educators, it is not just a cognitive ability.
It is interesting to consider how living in a world of an intangible flow of information networks impacts perception in this very regard. The philosopher Paul Virilio landed upon this difficulty when he wrote about our perceptions of this infinite landscape before us:
With “teleobjectivity,” our eyes are thus not shut by the cathode screen alone; more than anything else we now no longer seek to see, to look around us, not even in front of us, but exclusively beyond the horizon of objective appearances. It is this fatal inattention that provokes expectation of the unexpected – a paradoxical expectation, composed at once of covetousness and anxiety, which our philosopher of the visible and invisible [Maurice Merleau-Ponty] called PANIC. – Paul Virilio, Art as Far as the Eye Can See
From brain science we learn how important the limbic system is for maintaining our “focus.” This large brain network affects emotions. The limbic system includes brain regions such as the amygdale, hippocampus, cingulated gyrus, orbital frontal cortex, and the insula, which are connected in various ways. It is either or both how perceptions affect our emotions or how emotions affect our perceptions that is key to understanding how we organize, categorize, and interpret the world. The limbic system also affects us behaviorally in terms of our drive.
In other words any sort of confusion that provides a stimulus and hits a hot spot in the brain has the potential to function as psychological warfare. We have seen much of this in recent years in politics and no doubt also the technology sector. This particular strategy can cause chaos for reasons of evoking a confusion of primary rewards and primary threats. We lose the ability to trust our perceptions no longer knowing whether or not we should trust what we see. Interestingly enough, this is actually visible in an MRI.
All over the brain is sabotaged. Our memory is affected. Also having so much to do with the prefrontal cortex area of the brain, the destructive force of “drama” (not to be taken lightly) causes problems in understanding, deciding, memorizing, and inhibiting. In the postindustrial world where capital is held in the hands of those who control the flows of information, danger is not an irrational emotion.
Suddenly, we recognize the value of mindfulness art offers to us today. For as reasons as simple as helping us overcome distraction, it is highly useful. Art teaches us to draw upon all sensory experiences. It actually also teaches us to doubt our perceptions and find ways to analyze them. It serves an integrating function for the ego as well, adding to mental and emotional clarity. Some experiences of art, especially those that are written about, can also offer an inner sense of resolve because in writing in contrast to spoken language, we explore our own subjectivity, and the brain naturally wants to achieve insight.
These landscapes of the mind in art can better prepare us to conquer Virilio’s “teleobjectivity.” Perception, both subjective and objective, affective and cognitive, intuitive and tacit, neither solely in the mind nor body, to be found neither far nor near is the experiential domain of Reality we can also call art.
I know this is true about Mark Rothko. The man suffered even in his own lifetime rumors of suicidal hints in his paintings, and that myth has even amounted to an Off Broadway show, “Red,” designed for fame by exploiting a myth about artists with drug and alcohol addiction problems. Everyone seems to see the same thing in his painting. We look for the easiest thing we can recognize and which draws upon preexisting knowledge and experiences. To look at a Mark Rothko painting, we must see Nietzsche’s Dionysian and Apollonian poles of what is rational ad irrational, visible and invisible.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust