Vision in Art and Neuroscience Fall 2018 
9.S52 (UG)
9.S916 (G)
Tues & Thurs 3-5 pm in 10-150 (MIT Museum Studio)
contact: visualstudies AT mit.edu
We will treat perception as an act of creation, the creation of an individual’s world of experience. From limited and noisy data incoming through the senses, our brains construct the rich world we perceive. Creating visual art throws that world of experience back to the outside, and in it we find reflected some mechanisms of the constructive process of vision. As such, we can find examples in art which allow us to “perceive perception.” Through readings, lecture, discussion, and project-based work, the course will explore the neural and computational mechanisms of vision and their parallel manifestations in visual art. We will learn to use and develop new tools in the arts (working mostly with light) and neurosciences (of vision and computation) to build installations which allow us to physically experience different levels of the hierarchy of visual processing discussed in the course. The course is divided into one seminar-style lecture and one session of studio instruction per week. Students will use the studio time to develop a project for exhibition in the Compton Gallery at the end of the semester.
Syllabus (last updated 2018.9.10)
Exhibition: Perceiving Perception (December 2017 - February 2018), MIT Museum Studio Compton Gallery
Course Structure
The course consists of one two-hour seminar (Tuesday) and one two-hour studio workshop (Thurdsay) per week. Seminars will include slide talks, demonstrations, video documents, etc. by the team as well as invited guests. Carefully chosen readings and student presentations will fuel discussions. In the first weeks of class, workshop hours will be spent in a dark room where students will be guided through experiments visualizing the fundamental interactions of light and vision. As the semester progresses, the two-hour workshop will become studio time, during which students will design, prototype and construct their projects for exhibition. The seminar will be divided into six modules that build, one upon the next, to introduce principles of vision neuroscience and their parallels in the creation of visual art. At the end of the semester, there will be an exhibition opening in Compton Gallery where students will be expected to give brief artist talks introducing their work. This presentation and the student project will replace a written final examination for the course. 
 Intro presentation 
Module 1 The origins of structure in perception and art
Module 2 Early visual processing  (lecture slides
                 Notes on a Total Light (Lippard 1967)
Module 3 Binocular vision, depth, and motion perception (lecture slides + supplement)
Module 4 Color and Light (lecture slides)
Module 5 Recognition, compositionality, and perceptual primitives (lecture slides)
Module 6  ​Art and associative recall
                 Inventing Abstraction (Kandinsky)
Pawan Sinha
Pawan Sinha is a professor of vision and computational neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. He received his undergraduate degree in computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi and his Masters and doctoral degrees from the Department of Computer Science at MIT. Using a combination of experimental and computational modeling techniques, research in Pawan’s laboratory focuses on understanding how the human brain learns to recognize objects through visual experience and how objects are encoded in memory. The lab's experimental work on these issues involves studying healthy individuals and also those with neurological disorders such as autism. A key initiative of the lab is Project Prakash; this effort seeks to accomplish the twin goals of providing treatment to children with disabilities and also understanding mechanisms of learning and plasticity in the brain.
contact: psinha AT mit.edu 
Seth Riskin 
Seth Riskin runs the MIT Museum Studio and Compton Gallery, a space for interdisciplinary projects and experimental exhibitions. He also oversees the Holography and Spatial Imaging area at the MIT Museum. A light artist who conducts humanistic research of light across disciplines and cultures, Seth brings to the course hands-on methods for controlling light and shaping the visual perception of form, space and time, as well as expertise in the values and meanings of light and how they contribute to what we see.
contact: riskin AT mit.edu 
Sarah Schwettmann 
Sarah Schwettmann is a computational neuroscientist interested in creativity underlying the human relationship to world: from the brain’s fundamentally constructive role in sensory perception to the explicit creation of experiential worlds in art. She conducts research on Intuitive Physics in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, where she is working toward her PhD as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. Previously, Sarah was a member of the Eagleman Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine and the Shouval Lab for Theoretical Neuroscience at UT Health Science Center Houston. In the arts, Sarah uses her background in computation to create installations that explore structure in human cognition and the nature of intelligence. Her work has been exhibited at FiftyThree in New York and at OPEN Gallery in Boston. Sarah received BAs in Computational and Applied Mathematics and Cognitive Science from Rice University, where she was a Trustee Distinguished Scholar, Century Scholar, and taught courses on Engineering Computation and Women Leaders in STEM.
contact: schwett AT mit.edu