Just Trial and Error: Conversations on Consciousness
2010, UK, Alex Gabbay, 62 min.
Includes a post-screening discussion and admission to the museum's galleries.
Sculptor Steven Siegel, who uses trash and found objects to explore such issues as the passage of time and the environmental impact of mass consumption, engages with Taylor Carman, a professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, after a screening of the new film Just Trial and Error.
Steven Siegel is a New-York based sculptor noted for his environmental artworks, particularly his use of recycled materials such as newspapers, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. After completing his MFA at the Pratt Institute, Siegel traveled to Scotland, where he investigated the question of deep time as it relates to ancient geological processes, whose influence is evident in his works. He sees landfills as evidence of the impact that mass consumption is leaving on the earth, creating new geological formations that are reflected in his works. His works draw attention to the ambiguity between nature and technology. You can view Siegel's works at his website.
Taylor Carman is a Professor of Philohophy at Columbia University where his research interests include nineteenth and twentieth-century European philosophy, existentialism, hermeneutics, and phenomenology. He has written extensively about the significance of French phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty's, whose philosophy he understands to be "an attempt to describe perceptual experience as we experience it," centrally concerned with "the nature of perception and the bodily constitution of intentionality to his reflections on science, nature, art, history, and politics."
About the Film
What do art and science have to say about consciousness? Perhaps no aspect of the mind is more familiar or more puzzling than consciousness – it is something that has defied definition. Yet our conscious experience of self and the world is what shapes us and our history.
In an attempt to understand consciousness, filmmaker Alex Gabbay invites sculptor Antony Gormley, eminent neuroscientists Prof Brian Butterworth and Dr. Beau Lotto and internet entrepreneur Twain Luu – whose study of the 'global brain' makes fascinating reading – to explore its meaning and how it affects their area of work.
Structured in a non-linear way, the four protagonists present insights on the human brain, global consciousness, the role of the internet, perception, the space art occupies, etc. While the subjects weave in and out of each other to create the arguments, each interviewee has his or her own narrative arc. Set against a lingering score by Wajid Yaseen and witty use of visual material, the film flows like ‘a stream of consciousness,’ unfolding its own narrative from captivating interviews.
Antony Gormley is Britain’s most prominent sculptor. Gormley is a Turner prize winner and the creator of the Angel of the North, Another Place, One Another on the Fourth Plinth, in London’s Trafalgar Square, among many others. According to Gormley, his work is more about metaphysics, perception and matters of consciousness than it is about art. Gormley’s work has been the subject of several BBC documentaries.
Dr. Beau Lotto is a perceptual neuroscientist. A reader in neuroscience and head of Lottolab in University College London, Dr. Lotto is doing ground-breaking work on perception by combining art and science to show how people literally 'make sense' and create meaning. Dr. Beau Lotto has contributed to programs on Channel 4, BBC, Discovery and National Geographic channels.
Professor Brian Butterworth is a cognitive neuroscientist. A highly esteemed British Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology at University College London, Prof Butterworth's approach has been to explore how our innate sense of numbers contributes to our perception of the world and how numbers have been central to the evolution of human society.
Twain Luu is an internet entrepreneur, the founder of an internet company which develops qualitative and quantitative tools for the web, or the conscious web, wherein information can be more readily contextualized. According to Twain, Sir Tim Berners-Lee's constructs of the semantic web are incomplete. Its forms and structures of contextualization are still not sufficiently qualitative.