Neurosciences: the Prada Foundation presents the “Human Brains: It Begins with an Idea” exhibition in Venice

In 2018, the Fondazione Prada set up a multidisciplinary project in the field of neurosciences which aims to explore the human brain, to understand the complexity of its functions… These reflections gave birth to “Human Brains”, a program of exhibitions, of online debates, conferences and publications which began in November 2020 and will end next November. On the occasion of the Venice Art Biennale 2022, the Fondazione Prada presents the exhibition “Human Brains: It Begins with an Idea”, curated by Udo Kittelmann and Raryn Simon, at Ca’ Corner della Regina, in Venice, from April 23 to November 27, 2022.

The Prada Foundation was created in 1993 by Miuccia Prada, the granddaughter of the founder of the famous fashion house, which she manages with her husband, Patrizio Bertelli. Dedicated to contemporary art, cinema and philosophy, it organizes numerous cultural events, sometimes in atypical places such as warehouses or abandoned churches. In 2011, she restored an 18th century palace, the Ca’ Corner della Regina located on the banks of the Grand Canal, in Venice, where the exhibition “Human Brains: It Begins with an Idea” takes place.

The project Human Brains »

“Human Brains” is the result of in-depth research carried out in collaboration with a scientific council led by Giancarlo Comi, made up of researchers, doctors, philosophers, psychologists, linguists, curators… such as Jubin Abutalebi, Massimo Cacciari, Viviana Kasam, Udo Kittelmann, Letizia Leoc… The brain is analyzed from an anatomo-functional point of view, while focusing on the processes of cerebral aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

The project was titled in the plural form “brains” to highlight the complexity of the human brain but also the uniqueness of each individual. It has been tested using different scientific approaches: neurobiology, philosophy, psychology, neurochemistry, linguistics, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Miuccia Prada says:

“I have been thinking about this project for years, and we are finally ready to commit to this intention, thanks to the support of a group of philosophers, scientists and researchers who form the scientific council of “human brain”. During the 25 years of activity of the Fondazione Prada, I have always wanted to work on relevant cultural ideas. This specific project attributed to neuroscience is perhaps our most important to date: for a visual art institution such as the Fondazione Prada, dealing with science is a real challenge, as it will have to give voice and form to the ideas of researchers. . This dialogue, which is now beginning to embody the “Human Brains” project, underlines the importance of cooperation, in order to give value and disseminate studies and practices that are significant for our present. »

This project has four stages:

  • In 2020, the online conference “Culture and Consciousness” took place from November 9 to 13, a scientific approach structured in five daily discussions on the study of consciousness in neuroscience.
  • “Human Brains: Conversations” is the second phase of the multidisciplinary program. The “Conversations” took place online from September 2021 to last April. Scientists, academics from different fields, a large community of students, researchers, recognized by neuroscience or, more generally, for their studies on the brain, were able to discuss with each other or interact with the public on an open platform.
  • The exhibition “Everything starts with an idea” from April 23 to November 27, 2022.
  • The scientific forum and the “Preserving the Brain” exhibition project, scheduled for Milan in September and October 2022, will focus on neurodegenerative diseases and the pathophysiological mechanisms for treatment.

The exhibition

Miuccia Prada asked herself the following question:

“We are increasingly interested in relevant topics that impact everyone’s life, even when those topics are difficult to understand. For a cultural institution whose identity is anchored in the field of visual arts, dealing with science is an intellectual and political challenge: how to make an exhibition on ideas and knowledge? »

The “Human Brains: It Begins with an Idea” exhibition is organized by Udo Kittelmann in collaboration with Taryn Simon on three levels of the palace.

On the ground floor, video projections present the anatomy, physiology, brain imaging, development and functioning to the visitor.

On the first and second floor, more than 110 historical objects, drawings, paintings, prints and books marking some of the stages of understanding the brain are on display, shedding light on forgotten chapters from the Mesopotamian age and ancient Egypt, from the Italian Renaissance, from the Edo period in Japan as well as the imaging techniques of the last thirty years.

Thirty-two international fiction authors have written texts around these objects, interpreted by audiobook narrator George Guidall in short videos directed by Taryn Simon.

The “conversation machine” is installed in the center of the second floor: thirty-six neuroscientists, psychologists, neuro-linguists and philosophers seem to dialogue through thirty-two screens about neuroscientific experiments, their philosophical and ethical dimensions. Through excerpts from over 140 hours of maintenance orchestrated by Taryn Simon, this self-organizing system responds to itself, constructing and sustainably assimilating its own order and disorder.

The exhibition traces the history of the evolution of neuroscience, innovation and discoveries, attempts to outline the contours of consciousness but also the gaps in scientific research that prevent us from understanding the human brain in its entirety.

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Neurosciences: the Prada Foundation presents the “Human Brains: It Begins with an Idea” exhibition in Venice

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