Glass artists and scientists Mirror Neurons as part of AV Festival at National Glass Centre

By Ben Miller | 05 March 2012
A photo of a woman looking at a neon purple light
© North News
Exhibition: Mirror Neurons, National Glass Centre, Sunderland, until May 20 2012

Of everything AV Festival has to offer the north-east for the next month (see our Preview), few are likely to compare with a glass brain and spinal column which pulsates electromagnetic light and reacts to human contact.

Snappily-titled I was Scared to Death / I Could Have Died of Joy, the work is the first to be seen in the UK by Canadian Catherine Richards, a “media artist” who has planted glass replicas of the cranium and spine into an installation patterned on our oft-visited emotions of euphoria and anxiety.

Richards worked with vacuum physicists at the National Research Council of Canada on the piece, which is one of several meetings between scientists and glass artists at the Centre for the festival.

Simon Pope’s Recall from Memory the Space of Another Gallery, made as part of a two-year memory research project with psychologist Vaughan Bell funded by the Wellcome Trust, also allows visitors to “nest” their impressions of one space within the next by walking and talking.

Other pieces include Thomson & Craighead’s Several Interruptions, featuring 61,000 YouTube clips of time trialists holding their breath underwater, and Michael Snow’s Wavelength for Those That Don’t Have the Time, a 2003 remake of an avant-garde structuralist film classic.

“All of the works are connected by their use of media technologies,” says curator Sarah Cook, who feels each work will make viewers aware of their own “perception and mental action”.

“The title Mirror Neurons makes reference to a recent discovery in neuroscience concerning how we understand others’ intentions or feelings through observation and imitation. With art that reacts to the viewer we often watch how others interact with it, and mirror their behaviour, consciously or not.”

Taking inspiration from the mechanically animated, the aim of firing a few neurons among those who meet them look a safe bet to succeed.

  • Open 10am-5pm. Admission free.

More pictures:

A photo of a woman looking at a neon purple light
© North News
A photo of a scientist looking at a light inside a glass cylinder in the dark
© North News
A photo of a scientist looking at a light inside a glass cylinder in the dark
© North News
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