Why is there me?
Opening Drinks with the artist,
Wednesday 6 September from 6pm
Artist Talk: Saturday, 23 September from 11am
‘Why is there me?’
(Reflections on consciousness and the self)
The two greatest mysteries in all of nature are the mind and the universe. Physics says that we are made of stardust, that the atoms we see all around us (and of which we are made) were forged in the heat of a star. We are literally children of the stars.
So we are material objects in a material world, part of a material universe. But in our brains, physical processes occur (mostly out of our awareness) that give rise to a seemingly immaterial, private, subjective consciousness and sense of self, which includes the feeling of unity and continuity in both space and time.
But how does consciousness and the sense of self arise from our brains and bodies? How is it that we feel relatively permanent and unchanging? How is it that despite commonalities of biology, each person’s awareness of self and the world is unique- as unknowable to others as the distant objects of the universe? This subjectivity is the ‘hard problem’ of philosophy. Neuroscience can’t answer these questions yet, nor can psychology, and philosophers are not sure whether the problem is soluble, or illusory.
Explanations range from hydraulic and mechanical models through information processing to consciousness as an emergent property of the complex system of an embodied brain. Brain imaging techniques have increasingly supported this endeavour and have also shown that a default network, related to our sense of self, is active even when we are not consciously focussing our attention.
Subjectively and symbolically, from an artist’s perspective, with these paintings I enter this fascinating discussion.