Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Warren Neidich

Warren Neidich is an American writer and multiple media artist experimenting in music, illustration and photography.  Throughout the 1990's his worked focused heavily on neuroaesthetics, the application of neuroscience as a lens in understanding aesthetic experiences.  He has since heavily examined the co-evolution of art, the brain and the mind due to the key role they play in understanding the ontology behind neuroaesthetics.  Neidich's interest in neuroscience began in the classroom; he studied neurobiology at California Institute of Technology after having graduated from Washington University with degrees in psychology and photography.

Conversation Maps, the first two pieces included in this blog post, were created from simple day-to-day conversations.  However, these conversations took place in sign language and the participants had lights attached to their fingers and arms.  Their movements were recorded on long exposures and then underwent  processes of digital manipulation.

Neidich's Conversation Maps are seemingly colorful, abstract pieces until the viewer become knowledgeable of the context and method of creation.  He is successful in manipulating the mind's reaction to an aesthetic experience through the process of informing the viewer what they are, in fact, viewing.  Upon finding out that this image traces a conversation as simple as "I worked on my film today.  Are you dating someone now?", the viewer likely feels a sense of familiarity and can more greatly identify with the piece.

Neidich stresses the influence of optical phenomena on how artworks are perceived.  He attempts to distort reality in order to make it more representative of the subtext of an experience.  I feel that these pieces accurately embody the tone of interactions between deaf and hearing individuals as well as the tone of interactions between two deaf individuals.  A hearing person with little exposure to sign may look at these pieces and feel confused, uncomfortable, or apathetic due to their inability to relate to the piece.  From personal experience, these are the same reactions that a hearing person may have to an individual who is deaf.  However, once the process and title are revealed, a hearing individual can then understand and relate to the piece, just as they could understand and relate with a deaf individual through writing.  On the other hand (pun intended), a deaf person, or someone familiar with sign language, may be struck with a sense of familiarity as soon as they view the piece.  The strokes of color are recognizable as hand motions if the viewer thinks, or occasionally thinks, according to that perspective.

I find Neidich's approach to art intriguing and his goal of revealing the subtext of an experience very meaningful.  While these individual pieces sparked my interest, upon viewing other works of his on his website, I was not nearly as enticed.  I would say this proves his point of the influence of context upon perception of art, seeing as I have experience with and interest in American Sign Language and not so much in a bookshelf meant to hold "all the books Sarah Palin supposedly wanted censored from her local Library in Wasilla, Alaska."


  1. As a Psych and Art double major and Neuroscience minor, I think Neidich's neuroaesthetic works are really fascinating. I've always thought there was a big connection between our mental processes and our art, and I'm glad someone has found a way to represent this. I agree with you Sarah that the last piece, "Book Exchange" is harder to relate to, but the long exposure sign pieces are very expressive and meaningful.

  2. This is really awesome! The ability to make art as neuroscience as the lens really shows that creative expression can be conveyed out of anything really. I think this would be a fun and interesting project to work on because you would just be using people's movements to create such a visually stimulating and abstract piece.

  3. It is abstract work such as conversation maps that needs a title as well as an explanation for viewers to understand why it was created.

    Neidich's work is really encouraging to the art world because it helps to create variation, and makes it known their are no limitations. He is a knowledgeable individual who experiments with the sciences in an art realm.

    Conversation Map is too difficult to understand its purpose upon first observation, but ambiguous work often receives many interpretations, which is for the better.

  4. His conversation maps are absolutely beautiful. I love how I can really connect with the feeling of being small and shy and having such a seemingly insignificant conversation that internally means so much. Neidich clearly puts a lot of thought into his work and I think you really made that clear in your article.

  5. The Conversation Maps he created have really interesting concepts. Upon first look, it can be thought of in many different literal as well as figurative ways. When I first looked at the pieces before reading about them, I thought that what was depicted was either a forest or noise amongst silence. When I finally read though the blog post, I was surprised and impressed by the actual idea for the paintings. It gave me a newfound appreciation for art and the fact that it can be expressed in many different ways, especially in ways that seem so unrelated to art like conversation.

  6. Context is important for many pieces of art and it's pretty unique to see an artist manipulate context towards their own means. As you said without the title or knowledge of how the pieces were made there is only the audience and an abstract set of colors and patterns. Its also amusing because without the background knowledge on the piece I was unaware that communication was even being attempted.