VSAC 2018 Keynote Lectures
The place of contemplation in a world of arts
by Michael Kubovy
Three topics have preoccupied psycho- and neuro-aestheticians: perception, preference, and pleasure. In this talk, I intend to examine two topics that scholars have not treated with sufficient care: the scope of their subject matter, and the nature of pleasure. In particular, I will inveigh against the following widely accepted view (as articulated by Skov & Nadal, 2018): “assuming that art is special is to cling to the idea that some aspect of our species’ mental constitution makes us unique, special, and meaningful. This assumption continues to relegate scientific aesthetics to the periphery of science and hampers a naturalized view of the human mind.” I will argue that although there are reasons to believe that aesthetic experiences are sui generis complex and temporally extended contemplative activities, one need not assume that they are based upon art-specific psychological and neural processes inconsistent with the naturalization of mind. In addition, I will criticize the view (also widely accepted) that aesthetic valuation is the function of a cortical reward network that doesn’t care whether one is enjoying a fine wine or admiring Leonardo’s Last Supper. To this end, I will revisit my chapter “On the Pleasures of the Mind” in Kahneman et al. (1999).
Macchie, passages and edges lost and found
by Jan Koenderink
In the visual arts, one often composes a spatially organised array of elements. These elements are often patches (“macchie”) and edges. These are mutually complementary and often imply each other. “Edges” may either divide or unite macchie, whereas macchie may imply edges. Edges may be common boundaries as in cloisonnism, one one-sided as in outline. Composition often requires that edges be “lost”, either to avoid a silhouette effect, or to merge macchie that are semantically distinct, like figure and ground. This leads to planned “passages” or various modulations of edge quality, the “lost & found” quality being most common. In this talk, I will relate such artistic devices to the concept of “edge” in biological and human vision.