Art lovers often get a bad rap for their haughtiness, but as it turns out, looking at art may actually make you smarter. According to Jonathan Fineberg, an art historian and author of Modern Art at the Border of Mind and Brain, regarding a piece of art is exercise for your brain.
In a recent interview on c, Fineberg pointed out that the simple act of seeing is inherently creative, since less than 20% of what we see actually comes from vision. In fact, he says, “Most of it comes from processing in the brain and the visual cortex and that comes from memories, reason, emotion and all kinds of other things.” The brain actually does a lot of work to fill in the dearth of information from our five paltry senses, a fact that is evolutionarily advantageous for humankind. Take the phenomenon of pareidolia, for instance, or the fact that humans have been creating visual representations of the real world ten times longer than we have had written language.
Fineberg argues that to a certain degree, viewing all art is abstract. Even the most representational image is just a 2D icon of an actual 3D object. The more abstract a piece of art, the more the brain must work to comprehend it, requiring more effort from the centers of creativity, logic, memory, emotion, etc. It’s like weight training for the mind!
By the same token, art appreciation must be treated as an exercise, something you gradually work up to. Going straight for the weirdest, most abstract piece won’t do you much good, and might just make you hate art. Fineberg also warns against trying to see every piece of art in a museum (you don’t want to risk suffering an attack of Stendhal’s syndrome and have to be carried unconscious from the Louvre again).
“Pick one or two things you really want to look at and spend the time and really try and figure out what kinds of feelings it’s bringing up in you,” Fineberg suggests.
“Great works of art cause us to really rethink who we are”
Click below to listen to Fineberg discuss his theory about the important role of art on the human brain (a really interesting listen if you have a few spare minutes), or purchase the Modern Art at the Border of Mind and Brain book.
Based on Fineberg’s theory…
If looking at art makes you smarter, and Art Report highlights intriguing works of art each day, then checking out Art Report on a daily basis will make you smarter. BOOM.
Subscribe to our newsletter on our homepage.