|09.30 – 10.30
|Symposium: Ambiguity and Incongruity in Art and Science
|09.30 – 09.45
Branka Spehar: Ambiguity, arousal, and affect
The notion of ambiguity encompasses a number of different and multifaceted phenomena in both perception in general and aesthetics. However, the mechanisms by which ambiguity influences aesthetic experience remain unclear and are typically considered in relative isolation from other factors known to influence aesthetic experience such as perceptual fluency, complexity, and symmetry.
|09.45 – 10.00
Alessandro Soranzo: The enchanting role of belongingness in the Mona Lisa’s ambiguous expression
This presentation shows the advantages of integrating neurophysiology (the study of the nervous system) with phenomenology (the study of subjective experience) to gain a more comprehensive understanding of perceptual phenomena. In fact, by combining neurophysiology with phenomenology, we can gain a more holistic view of how we process and interpret perceptual phenomena. This is illustrated by the paradigmatic example of the Mona Lisa effect. This effect is defined as the condition under which the perceived level of contentment of the portrayed figure changes with viewing distance. In fact, from a distance, the Mona Lisa appears more content than from a close-up. Previous research on this effect focused solely on neurophysiological mechanisms, overlooking the role of subjective experience. Two experiments were conducted using the method of “percept-percept coupling”, in which all variables are measured at the perceptual level. The perceptual belongingness principles (the functional relations between parts of the stimuli that determine what appears as a unitary object) were manipulated, and their impact on the perceived expression of the Mona was measured. In particular, the perceptual belongingness of the shadow contiguous to the mouth was manipulated by an artist on digital copies of the masterpiece. These copies were then printed, and observers had to rate the perceived level of contentment from different distances.
|10.00 – 10.15
Katja Doerschner: Balance, stability and preference of self-arranged compositions inspired by suprematist art works
Balance and stability of a composition are critical factors for evaluating the aesthetics of an art work (Arnheim, 1982; Kandinsky, 1926; Locher, Gray & Nodine, 1996). However, to what extent these factors become relevant during the creation of art has rarely been examined directly. We isolated the ‘original’ form elements and ‘canvas’ of ten art works of three suprematists, Malevich, Popowa and Khedekel and investigated with a novel interactive task how 22 art-naïve participants arranged these elements according to two criteria: stable and dynamic appearance. For each art work participants positioned its form elements first on a paper ‘canvas’. Then they transferred to-, and validated their compositions on a computer monitor using an interactive program written in Python using PsychoPy routines. In subsequent rating tasks the two arrangements of each participant as well as the original suprematist art works were randomly presented and evaluated according to the degree of balance and stability as well as the strength of personal preferences (liking). Overall, the resulting compositions revealed that for a stable appearance participants often stacked elements within the lower part of the ‘canvas’ and frequently created symmetric distributions while for a dynamic appearance they rotated elements with respect to the ‘canvas frame’ and distributed them wider and asymmetrically. On average, participants liked their self arranged dynamic compositions more than the original art works. Preference and stability ratings were positively correlated for original artworks, but not for self arranged compositions. Moreover, the relationship between perceived stability, dynamics and liking varied with the complexity of the artwork. Finally, we found striking and consistent differences in individual participants’ preferences for stable and dynamic arrangements. Interactive tasks may provide fine-grained access to factors such as balance or stability and individual preferences that influence the perception and aesthetic evaluation of art.
|10.15 – 10.30
Qasim Zaidi: Incongruity: Visual and verbal
“In 1975, at the beginning of the wars, most public monuments in Beirut were hastily disassembled and stored in unmarked crates. The crates were dispersed to various secure storage sites. Thirty years later, the crates were gathered and opened in the hope of re-assembling the monuments. However, the lack of a breakdown and re-assembly protocol resulted in the odd composition of new public works, two of which are on display here.” (Walid Raad, Stedelijk Museum 2019). Incongruity, as expectation violation, was identified as a source of humor or amusement by Aristotle, developed by Beattie, Kant and Schopenhauer, and even implemented in neural networks. Incongruity resolution is the dominant theory of humor in philosophy and psychology, but incongruity could also lead to bewilderment, unease, or fear. I examine the roles of visual and cognitive incongruity using Raad’s art, aided by his accompanying texts. By comparing different pieces in the absence of any verbal information, viewers identify the most visually incongruous pieces. Then they identify the visually incongruous elements. Visually incongruous elements that are common across viewers, provide insights about the violations of visual expectations that are used to rapidly transform sensory information into generally veridical semantic percepts. The viewers also describe what visual incongruity conveys by itself, and if the accompanying cognitive framework provided by Raad’s texts changes the meaning. In general, the added verbal framework resolves incongruity and turns the more diverse feelings generated by visual incongruity into humor, but the historical context also makes the experience more poignant.
|10:30 – 11:00
|11.00 – 12.30
|Talk Session: Art in Context: Museums and Art Spaces
|11.00 – 11.15
Christopher Linden: A time and a place to perceive art: In-depth, but not simple, appraisals of art exhibition are higher for artworks viewed in a museum than a laboratory
Most empirical aesthetics research strips away the environments and experiences that art viewers commonly enjoy. While these restrictions can be important to study the effects of certain features (e.g., symmetry, contrast, etc.) on aesthetic appraisal, the limitations placed on viewers may inhibit their ability to engage with the artworks on a deeper level. We sought to explore how a typical experimental design impacts the art viewing experience, in comparison to a museum visit. We focused on the exhibition Take Your Time, at M Museum in Leuven, which centred around a dialogue between past and present. The artworks were either viewed in person at the museum or on a computer in the laboratory. Participants either followed a free-viewing (self-selected order, unlimited time, unrestricted distances/angles) or a rigid-viewing protocol (predetermined order, 10s presentations, restricted distances/angles). 162 Participants (~40/condition) had their eye-movements tracked and were required to provide pleasure and interest ratings for each artwork. After the viewing session, participants provided their impressions of the entire exhibition. Exhibition pleasure and interest ratings did not differ between conditions, however other exhibition-wide ratings (i.e., seeing connection between artworks, typicality, expectation match, being more than sum of its parts) were higher in the museum, irrespective of viewing constraints. Linear regressions show that participants’ pre-existing art style preferences is the strongest predictor of responses to individual works, while also revealing complex interactions between location, viewing constraints, viewing time, and art form (i.e., sculpture, painting, installation). These findings suggest that the context in which we study art perception matters, particularly for in-depth appraisals, though this context may matter less for simple appraisals (i.e., pleasure or interest). The strength of the context effect depends largely on the individual work in question, and (to a lesser extent) on the art style or form.
|11.15 – 11.30
Tomasz Michalik: Between mental and material heritage. Eye-tracking study on perception of medieval Nubian paintings from Old Dongola archaeological site
The role of archaeologists is not only to discover material heritage, but also to make it available to a wide audience. However, this task can be challenging, especially in a situation where the archaeologist belongs to a different culture than the one of the local community. One reason for this are culturally grounded cognitive differences (for example the tendency for representatives of collectivist cultures to perceive holistically vs. the tendency for representatives of individualist cultures to perceive analytically). This and other factors (like differences in knowledge or aesthetic preferences) may play a role in the understanding and value of archaeological remains (especially with varying preservation state).
|11.30 – 11.45
Stephanie Miller: What did the art mean? A case study of an installation by artist Anselm Kiefer
“Nothing.” – One visitor
|11.45 – 12.00
Gregor Hayn-Leichsenring: Does genuineness matter? – Comparing beauty ratings of original drawings and their digital copies in different settings
“Girl reading a letter at a window” is an oil painting by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). A major restoration completed in 2021 revealed a painting of Cupid on the back wall that had been overpainted with homogeneous brown paint after Vermeer’s death. The discovery of this painting within a painting changed not only the interpretation, but also the composition of the artwork. Here, we performed an eye tracking study on digital representations of the painting to investigate how the restoration altered the way people perceive this artwork. We defined five areas of interest (foreground, reader, window, letter, and cupid/wall). 19 naïve lay people were asked to look at the older version of the painting showing a blank wall in the background (version 1), the restored version, depicting a painting of Cupid (version 2), as well as both versions side-by-side while we monitored their eye movements. Participants then decided on which version they preferred. Overall, most fixations were on the reader and the window. As expected, we found less fixations on the overpainted wall in version 1 as compared to the Cupid in version 2. Fixations on Cupid in version 2 were more numerous when it was shown after version 1. Furthermore, the number of fixations on the foreground and the letter remained rather stable, while less fixations occurred on window and reader. When shown side-by-side, people looked more frequently at version 2. However, the majority of participants preferred version 1. Our results show that the Cupid receives more attention if participants are aware of version 1 and that attention is drawn from the reader and the window. Furthermore, we show that, without knowledge of the artwork’s history, lay people favored version 1, the painting without Cupid.
|12.00 – 12.15
Eleftheria Pistolas: Aesthetic appreciation in Ganzfeld art
In the absence of sensory stimulation, the brain produces its own reality. For example, perceptual deprivation through Ganzfeld (GF) stimuli can induce hallucinations and altered states of consciousness. Artists such as James Turrell have adapted the GF effect to art installations, which are described as “incredibly immersive” aesthetic experiences. Here, we investigated the relationship between alterations in consciousness induced through GF art and its potential relationship with the emergence of aesthetic appreciation using a mixed-method approach by combining behavioral and neural measures with questionnaires, rating scales, and interviews. In a first experiment, 28 participants experienced an in-lab red GF stimulus. In a second experiment, 45 participants experienced the in-lab GF with varying colors. In both experiments, a multimodal GF, i.e., homogeneous visual and auditory stimulation (white or brown noise) was applied. Participants wore an EEG device, an eye-tracker and headphones, and they were given a dial to report hallucinations and blackouts. After the 25-minute GF session, participants were interviewed and completed a questionnaire assessing alterations in consciousness (OAV), liking and beauty, personality and demographics. The results of the OAV in Experiment 1 show support for the induction of alterations in consciousness with significant deviations from zero for all dimensions (df = 27, p < .05). We are testing the hypothesis that the eye movements (e.g., saccade count, pursuits...) increase during hallucinations and decrease during blackouts. By analyzing the EEG data, we will further investigate previously found accelerated alpha activity in the brain coinciding with reports of hallucinations. Finally, we are currently collecting data for Experiment 3 with similar hypotheses and methods in a museum-based GF artwork.
|12.15 – 12.30
Theresa Rahel Demmer: The (brain) of the Artist is present: Comparing brain synchrony and the transformative potential of performance art in an ‘art vs. non-art’ context
“It’s plain to me that this is something incredible. I give people a space to simply sit in silence and communicate with me deeply but non-verbally. I did almost nothing, but they take this religious experience from it.” (Abramovic, 2010)
|13:00 – 14:00
|14.00 – 15.30
|Talk Session: Dialogues between Science and the Humanities
|14.00 – 14.15
Dominik Lengyel: Visual science through the artistic translation of scientific hypotheses
The visual communication of scientific content is still a debated topic. All too often, the question revolves around a choice between scientificity and clarity. In this, we often disregard that the potential viewers of the visualisation are most certainly capable of recognising the scientific nature as such and of appreciating an adequate presentation accordingly. Not least the interest in science brings with it an openness on the part of the viewer to engage with a perception that does not correspond to physical reality, not to mention visual communication within the sciences themselves. On behalf of art, or more generally on behalf of the creative disciplines, openness is a given anyway, since they specialise in creating new forms of visual artefacts that are not merely taken over from physical reality as ready mades, but are reflected upon and created and presented in innovative forms. The necessity to communicate scientific concepts, often in the form of abstract hypotheses, due above all to the uncertainty in knowledge, usually leads to falling back on the verbal form, the word. But this is precisely where the design disciplines have their expertise, namely in giving abstract thoughts, such as scientific hypotheses, a visual form of appearance. In this way, interdisciplinary consortiums emerge whose aim is to bring art and science together in such a way that art translates the scientific word into visual language. If this process is iterative, the result can remain as close as possible to the original meaning, i.e. without becoming speculative. Following the presentation of exhibited projects (Palatine, Pompeii, Jerusalem, Cologne Cathedral, etc.) on a poster at the VSAC Conference 2022, this contribution shall present and discuss the latest developments in this field (especially regarding the perception of space in motion using the roman amphitheatre of dyrrachium) in a lecture presentation.
|14.15 – 14.30
Clair Morrissey & Aleksandra Sherman: Art & Flourishing: A Conversation Between Psychology and Philosophy
In our interdisciplinary book manuscript, Why the Arts Matter, we draw on our shared expertise as a cognitive scientist (Sherman) and philosopher (Morrissey) to make a case for how society should value, prioritize and engage with art. We argue that the heart of art’s importance is the social and epistemic role it can play in our lives: the arts shape how we know and how we relate to others. As we suggest in our previous work, visual arts’ “communicative nature, its capacity to encourage personal growth, its ability to reveal deep aspects of the human condition, to challenge preconceptions, to help us reconceptualize a question we are grappling with, and to provide clarity on ambiguous concepts or ideas” is far more essential to its value than enjoyment or beauty alone (Sherman & Morrissey, 2017).
|14.30 – 14.45
Márton Orosz: György Kepes’s unfinished ‘Light Book’, an encyclopedic survey on new media art
My paper is focusing on an unfinished book manuscript written by György Kepes, a Hungarian–American painter, photographer, designer, university professor, curator, and theoretician, between the 1930s into the 1980s. Kepes’s work consists of a palimpsest of visual and textual materials he collected, produced, and wrote over his lifetime. It meant to be published as the second book he would have been written on his own after the 1944 Language of Vision and the many other publications he edited in the field of art and Gestalt theory, including The Visual Arts Today where Kepes used the term “visual culture” the first time in history. György Kepes was the founding figure of the Chicago New Bauhaus Light Department in 1937 and was awarded two Rockefeller Fellowships, one in 1954 for the Perceptual Form of the City that served as an urban study at MIT and subsequently in 1959 to complete his research on light as a tool in art and architecture. Kepes’s unfinished and unpublished book manuscript draws from these scholarships to situate kinetic art in a broader art historical framework and presented the medium as an autonomous discipline with its own language and vocabulary, involving both technical lore and artistic sensibility. The contextualization of the results of Kepes’s findings and their juxtaposition of the developments of today is inseparable from the historical inspection of the early instruments for scientific image production as well as the exploration of the human’s place in the world, social environment, nature, and their mutual relationship.
|14.45 – 15.00
Christopher Tyler: Analysis of the art of bird’s-eye cartography
Since the earliest days, cartography was an outlet for the meticulous creative talents of artists, who added artistic flourishes to the Cartesian rigour of the mapping geometry of the cartographic representation. A particularly challenging form of artistic cartography was the oblique bird’s-eye view of a scene such as a cityscape or urban conurbation, requiring a vertically allocentric transformation from the egocentric ground-level landscape standpoint upwards towards the cartographically-accurate overhead aerial view. But whereas the direct aerial view could be paced out with a compass to determine its accurate geometry, the oblique bird’s-eye view required a perspective transform of this information that could not be traced directly from the scene from the egocentric viewpoint. I review the development of the bird’s-eye cartographic view from the mid-Renaissance Italian and German cartographers to the contributions of Francesco Rosselli, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Altdorfer, and El Greco in this particular art form (including a Renaissance bird’s-eye view of Cyprus itself).
|15.00 – 15.15
Teresa Chow Soares & Joana Pereira Seabra: Bridges between Art and Science – History, methods, questions and current practices
Science and art are often thought of as opposites: the first is frequently depicted as rational, methodic and result-driven, while the latter is more associated with skill, creativity and passion. There is even the widely prevalent myth that each of us is either more “right-brained” or “left-brained” and, therefore, more apt for rational or creative endeavors. This misconception pushes a type of biologically deterministic thinking, and leads us to believe that being artistically or scientifically inclined works in an “either-or” logic.
|15.15 – 15.30
Maarten Wijntjes: Subjective and objective pictorial research
Artistic images are generally analysed by the expert eye, and recently computational analyses have gained popularity forming the field of digital art history. A third possibility of analysing artistic images is using a group of non-expert eyes using crowdsourcing. This offers the possibility to analyse images from two different perspectives: objective and subjective. In the current project, we demonstrate these two cases. For the objective case we investigated perspective handling of the Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp. Participants had to annotate human figures and the horizon. We found that Avercamp lowered his perspective viewpoint the older he became. For the subjective case, we let participants adjust the place of the servant in Rembrandts’ “Syndics of the Drapers Guild”, as imaging studies had revealed that Rembrandt himself doubted about the placement. Indeed, participants’ doubts resembled the underdrawings that revealed Rembrandts’ explorations. Although these two studies have there own merit, their combination revealed an interesting insight: for the objective case the difference between participants was regarded as measurement noise but for the subjective case it was meaningful noise, reflecting the subjective variability. Furthermore, the study underscores that some analyses on images can (eventually) be performed automatically, but for the subjective impressions of artistic images we will always need human participants.
|15:30 – 16:00
|Coffee Break; Business Meeting in Room 112
|15:30 – 17:00
|Posters and Artworks
|17:00 – 18:30
|Talk Session: Art w Other Intelligences
|17.00 – 17.15
Yuguang Zhao: Visual perception of AI generated materials
Art has been used by scientists to study human perception because painters can create visual representations that are not limited by the laws of physics. Recently, a new possibility has emerged: generative AI. Although the recipes for image making are less clear than the traditional arts, they also demonstrate a wide array of convincing images that can be used to probe visual perception. In this study, we replaced the artist with generative AI models to investigate material perception.
|17.15 – 17.30
Lena K. Pieper: ‘Am (A)I creative?’: About the perception of AI supported creativity
Image- and text-creating Artificial Intelligences (AIs) such as Dall-E 2 and ChatGPT . make creative work with AI accessible to a broad mass. Thus, the question of authorship also raises the question of perceived creative output. Who has contributed how much to the work according to self-perception and the perception of others? How creative do we perceive the works of an AI compared to a human-made work, and how does it influence our perception when we create the works in cooperation with an AI?
|17.30 – 17.45
Olivier Penacchio: The advent of modernism through the lens of the early visual system
The history of Western art is subject to a complex interaction between cultural constructions of representational canons, social interactions, and cycles of emergence and turnover of styles. But it also rests on a more biological dimension: we humans perceive artworks through our senses, which have been shaped by millions of years of evolution in natural environments. A fundamental question in art and aesthetics is whether these cultural and natural facets interact.
|17.45 – 18.00
Loren Matelsky: The face of mischief: A facial expression signaling play aggression
To navigate the social world, we must recognize and communicate about rules and norms through a variety of channels, including language, gestures, and facial expressions. This is quite a feat, because social rules are often highly intricate. For example, during play, a general norm (e.g. not hitting others) may not apply within a specific context (e.g. a pillow fight) — a concept known in Game Studies as the ‘magic circle’. Could the presence of such a hierarchically embedded rule system be communicated by a single facial expression? In other words, is there a ‘face of mischief’? In Study 1, we used a reverse correlation approach to determine whether online participants recognize a specific facial expression as signaling mischievous intent. Subjects viewed pairs of faces with opposite noise patterns superimposed, and reported which face looked more like someone plotting to do something mischievous. The average of their selected faces had an expression which looked distinctly mischievous, and this was confirmed by an independent sample of raters. In Study 2, we ran a new reverse correlation experiment to confirm that this facial expression is specific to playful aggression. Each subject read about one of three types of social scenarios: Play (e.g. building a pillow fort), Aggression/Harm (e.g. stealing pillows), or Playful Aggression (e.g. having a pillow fight), and for several pairs of faces, judged which better matched the described behavior. An independent group of observers rated the average selected faces for the Play + Aggression scenarios as much more mischievous than the averages for the other scenarios. In Study 3, we found that the face of mischief is systematically asymmetric, with a slightly raised smile on the perceiver’s right side. These results show that there is a distinct face of mischief, which communicates nuanced meaning about playful aggression.
|18.00 – 18.15
Pepe Ballesteros: Dialectics of light
In words of Leonardo, ‘correctness of light cannot be measured or evaluated by technical means. Its representation is a definite manifestation of artistic talent which, unlike rules, cannot be learned.’ Despite being one of the core elements for rendering space in figurative paintings, it is striking to notice how scant attention pictorial light has received throughout art history literature. Art historians have preferred to emphasize perspective as the major Renaissance achievement rather than light because perspective is more easily defined. Due to light’s abstract nature, and unlike perspective, intention and accident are not easy to distinguish. Description of subtle changes in light features is a challenge not only for language but also for human perception. Visual psychologists have already shown that most of us are not particularly good at judging illumination features in a photograph (nor paintings, by extension).
|18.15 – 18.30
Colleen Macklin & Ben van Buren: What games reveal about the appreciation of visual artworks
What makes looking at a work of visual art enjoyable? According to one important class of theories, artworks often contain initial ambiguities, which viewers then resolve — producing a reward response akin to that associated with solving a puzzle. However, game designers typically distinguish puzzle games as just one of many kinds of games that people like to play. Whereas puzzles usually have just one solution and a limited number of ways to reach that solution, other types of games appeal to players by giving them more flexibility in their strategies and playstyles. Indeed, generally speaking, strategic multiplayer games have higher replay value than puzzle games, because on each replay, the player can pursue the same overarching goal (e.g. defeating the enemy team) in a different way each time. This helps to prevent habituation, and gives players room for autonomy and individual expression. The authors of this conversation proposal are an experimental psychologist, and a game designer, who teach a course together about perception and the design of digital games. In this conversation, we will discuss some theoretical and practical issues that arise when designing games and works of visual art in which players or viewers can achieve a goal (e.g. defeating the enemy team; coming up with a sensible interpretation) using a variety of strategies or playstyles. We will discuss how games leverage ambiguity in strategic choice, using examples from contemporary videogames, and focus especially on how competitive multiplayer games depend on good ‘balance’ among different strategies, so that one strategy does not dominate every time. We will discuss how visual artists face an analogous challenge to game designers, in order to create more pleasurable, extended multiviewer experiences of their artworks. More generally, we will argue for the importance of considering the sociality of visual art appreciation.
|18.30 – 19:00
|19:30 – 23:00
|Evening activities: Drinks @Studio Tapas