Jamais Vu - a research project
"In the present historical times, characterized by the vehement resurgence of ethno-religious particularism, when identity and difference are key problems at a global scale as well as at the level of our local communities, to establish that the universal status of human being is produced by social identification and mutual recognition and that is biologically grounded, shows the potential ethical relevance of neuroscientific research."
- Vittorio Gallese, The Two Sides of Mimesis
"Uncovering the bases of what neuroscientist Gallese describes as ‘an original experience we make of other human beings… which appears to be rooted in neural mechanisms’, my research project takes empathy as a starting point because of its fundamental role in intersubjectivity. Aesthetic experience seen as the mediated form of intersubjectivity - a way of understanding others’ behaviour or mental states - has become an object of current neuroscientific research, providing us with empirical bases to tackle such complex questions from different perspectives. Sensations, emotions and actions, when approached through mirroring brain mechanisms and embodied simulation, offer not only a discussion on cinema perception but also provide a more direct link to the creative models of cinema practices. Furthermore, when a filmmaker’s practice is put into the theoretical framework of embodied views on cognition, it opens up a new field of investigation for neurocinematic experiments.
While creating an interdisciplinary context to my research project, fields of neuroaesthetics and neurocinematics - each with their own approaches to cinema - can offer us as filmmakers conceptual devices in (re)defining our own professional field. Attending the course Brain, Body and Cinema: towards a Neuroaesthetics of Film, lead by Prof. Patricia Pisters (The Neuro-Image) and Prof. Julian Kiverstein (neurophilosophy) at the University of Amsterdam, as well as the time I spent as a researcher in the NeuroCine group under Dr. Pia Tikka’s supervision (Enactive Cinema), were crucial and indispensable steps in the process.
My research interest in the relation between film form and the spectator’s experience revolves around questions concerned with perception (distribution/integration of senses), affective components (cognition/affective meaning in sensory experience) and action potentials (perception-action models/empathy) through studies that take an embodied view on cognition. To approach seeing as an active exploration, and visual perception as a sensorimotor skill, visceral and affective, the body’s engagement with the (film) world may trigger new (brain/screen) structures to emerge. Understanding what cinematic form is made of by considering these propositions, gives cinema a capacity to go beyond symbols and representations and even beyond vision. Directing perception out of the habituated (cultural) conceptions, exploring below and beyond the status of the personal, means also taking a look under the skin in order to propose a new gaze into the other. In my live cinema project – Mirro®ing – I invite the audience to discover the narrative by taking a mirror mask, suspend the coordinates of identity and difference and become affect in new ways. Come face to face, as in a mirror.
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