FRIDAY morning: Fugue

how much does living in a big city affect our brain?
this is a complex question that encompasses a variety of interconnected elements and a great deal of abstraction.

Gordana Novakovic’s work has been trying to  convey such complexity in her recent work Fugue, possible thanks to an interdisciplinary team composed by Peter Bentley, Rainer Linz, Julie McLeod and Anthony Ruto. In a recent paper she explains:

In scientific education, it has become clear that traditional formal methods of study are increasingly alien to students who have grown up in a world dominated by digital media; at least initially, they require more familiar means of accessing science. Likewise, in communicating science to non-scientists, the constraints of the printed page or the talking head mean that is often necessary to simplify the subject matter to the point where too much is lost or excluded (Bentley, Novakovic, Ruto).

Fugue draws its title from the homonymous music composition, whose execution is as much complex as it is rigurous. This installation was designed to be an immersive experience where the “immune system drama” is played thanks to an artificial immune system software (AIS)  interacting with various agents (B-Cells, viruses, palettes etc..). the audience can choose to observe the scene from  different perspectives and determine the rhythm of the organism they are observing. audiovisual elements are complementary, as aesthetic components and conveyors of specific scientific information.


image from Fugue



while the installation is  both a compelling and multifaceted artistic work, as well as it can be used to convey  scientific information,   it also poses a few questions about the way in which the audience reacts and interacts with multisensory stimuli.


Novakovic  wondered how people could react to interactive media.
things move, behave and intersect in  a big environment like a big city in the same way  organisms move, and cells, inside these organisms behave.

a city, or an environment, however, transform, and so the organisms that live within it, by actively adapting.  how can they adapt?
Novakovic here draws from neuroplasticity, that is, the discipline that studies the brain’s capacity to actively rewire itself. we don’t see with our eyes, but with our brains. Thus, potentially, we can learn to see things by listening to them. In this sense then, Fugue is an example of neuroplastic art.  Then, what are the consequences or the implications of doing this?

The lesson we learn from this, then, is that grasping the complexity and multifaceted nature of networks (be they formed through the intersection of different sensory stimuli, different disciplines and different goals or languages) also implies adapting and mutating with them.