Pure psychic automatism

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<<< back to Art and the Brain

Looking Inside

  • mri
  • mri
  • magnets
  • the head

How Do we See?

  • da vinci

Yang Dan 1999

  • BCI cortical bed
  • Researchers targeted 177 brain cells in the thalamus lateral geniculate nucleus area, which decodes signals from the retina.
  • cat

Nishimoto et. al 2011

  • This model was then used to look up the 100 one-second video segments, in a database of 18 million seconds of random YouTube videos, whose visual patterns most closely matched the brain activity recorded when subjects watched a new video.


  • Reconstructing visual experiences from brain activity evoked by natural movies. Shinji Nishimoto, An T. Vu, Thomas Naselaris, Yuval Benjamini, Bin Yu & Jack L. Gallant. Current Biology, published online September 22, 2011.
    • "Record brain activity while the subject watches several hours of movie trailers"
    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsjDnYxJ0bo
    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMA23JJ1M1o
    • The computational encoding models in our study provide a functional account of brain activity evoked by natural movies. It is currently unknown whether processes like dreaming and imagination are realized in the brain in a way that is functionally similar to perception.
    • Predictive models are the gold standard of computational neuroscience and are critical for the long-term advancement of brain science and medicine. To build a computational model of some part of the visual system, we treat it as a "black box" that takes visual stimuli as input and generates brain activity as output. A model of the black box can be estimated using statistical tools drawn from classical and Bayesian statistics, and from machine learning.
    • https://sites.google.com/site/gallantlabucb/publications/nishimoto-et-al-2011
  • reconstruction from cat brain

problems as art project

Breaking Out

  • GIGO (Garbage in Garbage Out)
  • pure psychic automatism


  • Breton
    • SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express-verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner-the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.
    • ENCYCLOPEDIA. Philosophy. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life.
  • automatism
    • Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.
  • automatic writing. Robert Desnos sleeping. (in book Nadja)
  • Automatic drawing. André Masson. Automatic Drawing. (1924)
  • Max Ernst. Une Semaine de Bonte. 1933 (a week of happiness)

Dream Art


  • Janine Antoni 1994.
  • Tableaux vivants is another form of creation that Antoni has been described as utilizing. In her installation Slumber (1994) Antoni sleeps in the gallery for 28 days. While she sleeps, an EEG machine records her REM patterns, which she then weaves into a blanket from her night gown under which she sleeps. This particular work is seen as a tableau vivant because of the spectacle aspect of it:
    • The aspirational focus of this tableau vivant, while situating the artist as an object on view, simulataneously [sic] insists on an aesthetics of connections: between the artist and beholders, between the artists [sic] and the art institutions, and between the artist's conscious and unconscious processes.[8]

Dream Mapping

  • Susan Hiller, 1973.
  • Dream Mapping, 1973 was an art event provocatively poised between an experiment (social or scientific) and a performance without an audience. Seven dreamers slept for three nights inside “fairy rings” in an English meadow marked by an abundance of circles formed naturally by Marasmius oreades mushrooms, a landscape feature that occurs in a number of British folk myths. The field became a site for dream experiences which were discussed and mapped the following morning. The dream maps of each participant were collected and copied onto transparent paper, sandwiched together, and traced to compile a composite group map for each night. A number of shared features were noted.

Reconstruction of Natural Imagery from Dream State

We focused on visual imagery (hallucination) experienced during the sleep-onset (hypnagogic) period (sleep stage 1 or 2)

We repeated this procedure to attain at least 200 awakenings with a visual report for each participant. On average, we awakened participants every 342.0 seconds.

  • words describing visual objects or scenes were manually extracted and mapped to WordNet, a lexical database in which semantically similar words are grouped as “synsets” 20 in all
  • collected images depicting each base synset from ImageNet

Movie S1:

What I was just looking at was some kind of characters. There was something like a writing paper for composing an essay, and I was looking at the characters from the essay or whatever it was. It was in black and white and the writing paper was the only thing that was there. And shortly before that I think I saw a movie with a person in it or something but I can't really remember.

Movie S2:

Well, there were persons, about 3 persons, inside some sort of hall. There was a male, a female, and maybe like a child. Ah, it was like a boy, a girl, and a mother. I don't think that there was any color.

NREM Sleep

NREM sleep was divided into four stages in the Rechtschaffen and Kales (R&K) standardization of 1968. That has been reduced to three in the 2007 update by The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).[8]

Stage 1 – occurs mostly in the beginning of sleep, with slow eye movement. Alpha waves disappear and the theta wave appears. People aroused from this stage often believe that they have been fully awake. During the transition into stage 1 sleep, it is common to experience hypnic jerks.[9]

Stage 2 – no eye movement occurs, and dreaming is very rare. The sleeper is quite easily awakened. EEG recordings tend to show characteristic "sleep spindles" and "K-complexes" during this stage.\

Stage 3 – previously divided into stages 3 and 4, is deep sleep, slow-wave sleep (SWS). Stage 3 was formerly the transition between stage 2 and stage 4 where delta waves, associated with "deep" sleep, began to occur, while delta waves dominated in stage 4. In 2007, these were combined into just stage 3 for all of deep sleep.[10] Dreaming is more common in this stage than in other stages of NREM sleep though not as common as in REM sleep. The content of SWS dreams tends to be disconnected, less vivid, and less memorable than those that occur during REM sleep.[11] This is also the stage during which parasomnias most commonly occur. Various education systems eg. the VCAA of Australian victorian education practice still practice the stages 3 & 4 separation.