Their initial phone conversation spanned two hours as Jackson drove through the snow from his home country of Canada back to Irvine. “These conversations were just fantastic,” explains Palmer. “There were a lot of natural fits between Jesse’s work and mine — it was really interesting to me that Jesse’s art, like my work in brain science and philosophy, itself explores themes of exploration and discovery. It’s interesting that both Jesse and myself come from interdisciplinary backgrounds: he from engineering to architecture to art, and myself from computer science (undergraduate) to philosophy (graduate) to neuroscience.”
Jackson explained, “I pulled over to the side of the road and we had an amazing conversation. Instead of using artwork to explain science, we wanted to create a project that begins to help us understand what is happening when someone experiences the pleasures and provocations of art.”
For this project, the collaborators agreed to explore two models. The first are some preliminary experiments towards monitoring the human response to experiencing artwork. The second explores a rat model, to understand the evolutionary basis and neural pathways of the ‘aha’ moment.
The challenge — and innovation — in both these models is how to create that elusive ‘aha,’ and even to know when it occurs.
“Marching Cubes,” Pari Nadimi Gallery, Nov. 17, 2016 – Jan. 14, 2017. Source: jessecolinjackson.com
As an artist, Jackson will put forward two kinds of creative projects that, in his previous observations, might elicit ‘aha’ moments in the human brain. The first features photos and videos that apply varying levels of abstraction to well-known Orange County locations, such as the oceanfront and the Santa Ana River. Tracking technology will record the viewer’s reaction to these images, in the hope of capturing the ‘aha’ moment as the location becomes recognizable.
For the second, Jackson wants to observe how participants can manipulate, learn, and explore their way to the ‘aha.’ For this, Jackson will use an existing interactive project titled Marching Cubes, made up of 3D printed components that fit together in specific ways. As participants begin to explore these components, they will discover (aha!) the assembly rules. By actively participating in the art experience, does the viewer have a different kind of ‘aha’ moment?