What Weekly Interview on Gumbo and The Beholder’s Share


Photo by Bobby Kintz

We at Generous Company love What Weekly.  Not just because they continue to show an interest in what we do, but because it is one of the best places on the web to learn about what is going on in Baltimore’s art scene.

Last week they published a fantastic interview by Peter Davis with Generous Company Members and Beholder’s Share collaborators, David White, Mike Vandercook, Will Manning and Rebecca Eastman with great photos by Bobby Kintz.

Here’s the link.  Peter always makes us sound so smart…




Ideas shared at meeting


One story told many ways…

Each story starts the same way.  Use the trolley story as an example.  Each night we see the same set up; a group of people all watching the trolley heading toward  5 people on the tracks. Maybe the audience sees the “decider”, maybe they don’t.

Sound of crash, screams, visible reaction from crowd.

Each story differs from here.

  • Perception: how each person, all observing the same event comes to different conclusions
  • Memory: years later each person remembers it
  • Decision making:  was it right or wrong
  • Empathy: a viewer “knows” what the decider was thinking, are they right?
  • Creativity: the only viewer to accurately express what happens is the artist.  How/why?


A group of people on a quest of sort.  Each member of the group has damage in a different area of the brain.  One can’t recognize faces, another landscape, ect.  How are their experiences in the world different.  How are there deficiencies a benefit?



Use sound to recreate the number/intensity of firing neutrons.  Each area of the brain could have a different instrument attached to it.  As that area is stimulated the sound from that instrument increases speed or volume.  As one area starts talking to another they create cords.



Use color consistency (see Kandel, Insight pg. 235) to confuse characters.

“it was the guy in the light grey t-shirt”

the dark grey appears light because it is around darker colors, the light grey, dark because it was around lighter colors.  Which is the guy in the light grey t-shirt?

There are two guys in identical t-shirts that only look different because of who they are standing next to

The more you know…

I continue to realize how much more research I need to do.  While trying to come up with something concrete to bring to today’s meeting was doing research into color, and our brain’s perception of it. I was surprised by how many other people are doing research similar to what we are exploring.  Here are some of the things I found.

Neurobiology Looks To Shed Light On Vision, Art’ Harvard Crimson

By Alissa M D’gama, CONTRIBUTING WRITER   Published: Friday, November 06, 2009


Bevil R. Conway, a visiting lecturer in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School says…

“There is a kind of feedback as you’re making a picture—the colors on the canvas are actually changing as you apply other colors next to them,” Conway says. “That dynamic process reflects something about how the visual system works.” In fact, art and art practices are fundamentally constrained by how the visual system works, he says, and the study of art is in some ways in the service of the quest to understand vision.”


The Color of Neurons or The Color of Success  August 08, 2009  Posted by brain – research neuroscience group


This  is a great page with some really interesting research on it, but I can’t understand the images.  I would love to get a better idea of some of the colors they are working with.  Could be interesting to use this to play with color palate.  Particularly if we want to sift audience focus from one character to another.  Could we use color to manipulate focus?


The Science Network interviews Tom Albright

Perception and the Beholder’s Share


Tom Albright is Professor and Director of the Vision Center Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological studies. His laboratory focuses on the neural structures and events underlying the perception of motion.  Tom Albright talks with Roger Bingham about visual perception, his research into how cortex represents features from images, what schizophrenia can teach us about perception, and his interest in art and architecture.

Some of the questions this Tom Albright is posing…

How does the cortex work?   How extract one feature and generalize across a bunch of other features?  What is the role of context in visual processing?

Some of his answers…

“You have an image in the back of your eye.  And from that image the brain tries to infer the causes of that image…There is not enough information in that image in the back of your eye for you to reliably reconstruct what’s out there in the world.  And yet we do it reliable most of the time.


The only way to get around this reverse problem of optics is by including additional sources of information.  And one additional source of information is what we call the local context, which is the other stuff that happens to be in the image at the same time.  So, for example if there was a bicycle in front of me and the bicycle was partially occluded by some other object I can very reliably infer where the bicycle extends beyond that object.  I am drawing conclusions about what is in my environment in the absence of direct information. “

He goes on to say that another source of context is your prior experience with the world

“you use your priors of  the world to make hypothesis about what’s out there at any given time.  Not only is there not enough information, but it is also noise and ambiguous and incomplete and we fill in the blanks based on what’s most likely to be there based on our prior experience of the world…  This is magicians work.  They force you to guess the wrong thing.”

So, how can we use this?  Can we force the audience to perceive wrong, but in the way we would like them to?  How would this help us tell a story?

Subterranean Back-chat

Today I watched the Deciding Brain episode of Charlie Rose’s the Brain Series.  In it Kandel references an essay by C.P. Snow called Two Cultures about the mutual distrust of the humanities and the sciences. Snow states the issues as this,

The non-scientists have a rooted impression that the scientists are shallowly optimistic, unaware of man’s condition. On the other hand, the scientists believe that the literary intellectuals are totally lacking in foresight, peculiarly unconcerned with their brother men, in a deep sense anti-intellectual, anxious to restrict both art and thought to the existential moment. And so on.  Anyone with a mild talent for invective could produce plenty of this kind of subterranean back-chat.

It goes further to discuss the essential language barrier between the two cultures.  Snow was both a writer and a working scientist who spent time in both arenas.  As he became more aware of the wall between the two fields he began to ask his colleges questions.

when one tried to probe [scientists] for what books they had read, would modestly confess, “Well, I’ve tried a bit of Dickens”, rather as though Dickens were an extraordinarily esoteric, tangled and dubiously rewarding writer

He goes on to say

Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the
company [of literary intellectuals] how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of Have you read a work of Shakespeare?

I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question, such as, “What do you mean by mass, or acceleration?” which is the scientific equivalent of “Can you read?”  not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language.

As we discuss the why of this project it seems important to keep in mind that posing questions like “How does brain process the totality of stimuli generated during a live performance?” and attempting to answer them through a piece of art is step toward bridging this gap.

Snow’s view seems to be that science cannot just be plugged into art, but that

It has got to be assimilated along with, and as part and parcel of, the whole of our mental experience, and used as naturally as the rest.

Let’s see if we can do just that.

Some notes/musings while watching Charlie Rose Brain Series: The Perceiving Brain

The eye is not a camera.

  • How do you present visual images onstage for the eye and not the camera?
  • How to you simulate other parts of the brain through the eyes?

Faces are not easily recognizable upside down.

  • Possible uses, reduce a face to a b/w 2D image and flip it, slowly rotate back to reveal a familiar face.

Places (ie: locations, landscapes), Faces and Bodies have specific, localized receptors in brain.

  • Man with damage to both places sensors can get around in the world, but never knows where he is.

The brain makes guesses, as result it can be deceived.

  • Brain brings to the forefront, discarding the incidental.
  • Could we purposely deceive the beholder’s brain (play with time lapse photography with shifting, processed images)

The elementary beginnings of the creative process is at work in everyone’s brain every time we see.  We constantly “create” our world.