With Consciousness in Mind (Part 1)

The universe is filled with physical phenomena that appear devoid of consciousness. From the birth of stars and planets, to the early stages of cell division in a human embryo, the structures and processes we find in Nature seem to lack an inner life. At some point in the development of certain complex organisms, however, consciousness emerges. This miracle does not depend on a change of materials—for you and I are built of the same atoms as a fern or a ham sandwich. Rather, it must be a matter of organization. Arranging atoms in a certain way appears to bring consciousness into being. And this fact is among the deepest mysteries given to us to contemplate.

Sam Harris: The Mystery of Consciousness II

There is a sense in the air that, after decades of going nowhere, the science of consciousness is on a roll. New ideas about the “global neuronal workspace”, and “integrated information in the brain” are offering possible explanations for how the brain, when conscious, is able to bring together the products of perception, memory, emotion, etc. to yield intelligent decisions.

But there’s a problem. We are getting a theory of consciousness that leaves out the essence of consciousness. Nothing in the new thinking even begins to explain the seemingly magical qualitative dimension of conscious experience: the qualia of sensation, “what it is like” to see red or feel pain.

Nicholas Humphrey: Consciousness Spirited Away.


What is the problem with consciousness? What is the relationship between consciousness and the brain? What is the function of consciousness? What does it do? What are experiences for? What is the relationship between consciousness and matter? Could a machine be conscious?

These are a few of the questions that With Consciousness in Mind (Part 1) explores, with exclusive interviews and articles from some of the world’s most renowned thinkers. In this issue philosophers, neuroscientists, scientists and artists explore the issue of consciousness.

In ‘Discussing Consciousness‘, John R Searle explores consciousness as a biological phenomenon and Patricia Churchland discusses the ‘Interface between NeuroScience and Philosophy’. Philip Goff explains how we need to radically rethink our understanding of matter in order to explain consciousness, and Paavo Pylkkänen discusses ‘Mind, Matter and Bohmian quantum information‘.

Susan Blackmore‘s interests include memes, evolutionary theory, consciousness, and Zen. She discusses these and much more in ‘Consciousness, memes and meditation‘.

How does our brain generate a conscious thought? And why does so much of our knowledge remain unconscious? In an extract from his latest book, Stanislas Dehaene, describes the pioneering work he and other cognitive neuroscientists worldwide have accomplished in defining, testing, and explaining the brain events behind a conscious state.

The ideas and implications of artificial consciousness are explored by Murray Shanahan in ‘The Brain and its Embodiment‘ and by Keith Wiley in Mind Uploading.

The very notion of consciousness and it’s relationship to the brain has been a rich source of inspiration to a number of contemporary artists. In ‘Art and the Brain‘, Julia Buntaine discusses her interest in neuroscience and the interactions between art and science. Lisa Park is multidisciplinary artist who experiments with biosensors (brainwave, heart-rate monitoring devices) to provide a vehicle for manifesting her inner states in Eunoia – beautiful thoughts. Artist and ceramicist, Hans Borgonjon, draws his inspiration for ‘Microtubuli X4’  from such scientists/philosophers as David Chalmers, Stuart Hammeroff and Roger Penrose.

Further discussions on consciousness are explored in the  magazine blog, ‘Talking about Consciousness, featuring Daniel Dennett: The Hard Question of Consciousness ; David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness? ; Christof Koch: The Search for Consciousness ; Antonio Damasio: The quest to understand consciousness ; Sir Roger Penrose: The quantum nature of consciousness ; Max Tegmark: Consciousness is a mathematical pattern and Nicholas Humphrey: The Magic of Consciousness.

And in Generation Next, young adults respond to the questions ‘Why is it so difficult to understand consciousness?’ and ‘What can be done to understand it better?’

‘With Consciousness in Mind’ will continue with Part 2 (May 2015) with contributions from Max VelmansRaymond TallisIain McGilchrist,B. Alan WallaceSusan AldworthGarry Kennard and Marilyn Schlitz, among others.

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We grow in direct proportion to the amount of chaos we can sustain and dissipate”
 Ilya Prigogine

The law of chaos is the law of ideas, of improvisations, and seasons of belief 

Wallace Stevens


Over the last thirty years, discoveries of phenomena at successive levels of complexity has led to a more dynamic view of Nature. According to the new perspective, Nature is constituted by events and relationships as much (or more s), as by separate entities. There is an emphasis on Nature’s complex combinations of law and chance, order and chaos, determinism and unpredictability.

The issue explores ideas and works by artists and scientists on the connection between order and chaos.

In his article, On Theme and Variation, Peter Randall-Page explores the ideas of D’Arcy Thompson who, in his seminal book On Growth and Form, described how commonalities of form and pattern exist across the biological and abiotic realms.  Peter goes on to describe how these ideas influenced and inspired his own work as an artist.

In Random Art, Cosmologist and mathematician, John D Barrow, looks at the mathematics behind randomly produced artworks.

Maureen McQuillan’s ‘visual article’ The Infinite Possibilities of Line, explores aspects of growth and unpredictability, repetition, replication and imperfection in the process and activity of drawing itself.

Roy Osborne is an artist, educator and writer. In Colour-Form Abstraction he describes the  interdependence of colour and form in his own paintings as related to a number of 20th century artists.

The Chaotic Universe’ is the second film in the series of recordings of the event, Art Meets Science and Spirituality in a Changing Economy, where composer/artist John Cage, thermodynamic physicist Ilya Prigogine, and philosopher/comparative religion teacher Huston Smith are interviewed.

There is a further interview with Ilya Prigogine, author of ‘Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature’ (written with Isabelle Stengers) and considered one of the founders of complexity science.

Further explorations of order, chaos and creativity include ‘video talks’ featuring: Boho Interactive: Chaos, complexity, balloons and bunnies ; Marcus du Sautoy: Symmetry, reality’s riddle ; Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide? ; Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs

Plus, Garry Kennard writes an Open Letter to the Tate’ – and gets a response.

And, in Generation Next, young adults respond to the question – What is the connection between Order, Chaos and Creativity?

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Changing Mind Changing Body

The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed. William Gibson

My work is about the non-human, it’s about the communication and the social interaction between humans and non-humans. It’s also a beacon, a message in a bottle for the future, that evolution itself is evolving.  Eduardo Kac

The more and more performances I’ve done the less and less I think I have a mind of my own, nor any mind at all in the traditional metaphysical sense.  Stelarc


The issue explores ideas and works on mind/body relationships and its future implications, covering such themes as bioart, transgenic art, augmented bodies/perception/reality, and transhumanism.

Legendary Australian performance artist Stelarc is known for going to extremes. For more than four decades, he has used his body as a canvas for art on the very edge of human experience. In an exclusive interview for the Interalia Magazine, he talks about his life, his work, and his vision for the future.

Eduardo Kac’s work encompasses many genres. He is internationally recognized for his media poetry, telepresence, transgenic and bio artworks. A pioneer of telecommunications art in the pre-Web 1980s, he emerged in the early ’90s with radical works combining telerobotics and living organisms. At the dawn of the twenty-first century Kac opened a new direction for contemporary art with his “transgenic art”. His visionary integration of robotics, biology and networking explores the fluidity of subject positions in the post-digital world.

Andrew Carnie’s artistic practice often involves a meaningful interaction with scientists in different fields as he develops his work. In Interactions with Science he discusses his ideas and artwork.

In a ‘ visual article’, Elaine Whittaker shows work from her installation I Caught it at The Movies and Diemut Strebe regrows Vincent van Gogh’s ear in Sugababe.

Transhumanisman is an international cultural and intellectual movement with an eventual goal of fundamentally transforming the human condition, by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. In two articles, bestselling visionary author Zoltan Istvan, discusses this movement and its implications for the future. In ‘Imagining Possibilities’, author and speaker Richard Barrett, looks at evolution as a spiritual journey.

Further explorations of ‘visionary’ approaches to the future include ‘video talks’ by Natasha Vita-MoreCatherine KerrKevin WarwickAubrey de GreyMax More and Miguel Nicolelis. There’s also a conversation between performance artist ORLAN and scientist and innovator Rachel Armstrong about the future of the human body.

Plus, blogs on David Cronenberg talking about the future of human bio implants and Seiki Mikami‘s installation ‘Desire of Codes

And, in Generation Next, young adults respond to the question – “How do you think future explorations into the mind/body relationship should go, from both the arts and the sciences?”

Change is the process by which the future invades our lives. Alvin TofflerFuture Shock

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Visions of Light

“As beings who see and analyze light, we recognize its importance in human existence and our perception of the world. Vision, the most highly developed of our senses, enlists much of the brain’s cognitive power to make sense of the flood of energy and information that reaches us through our eyes, a flood that also carries spiritual and aesthetic meaning. Even this does not fully define the power of light, for it has given humanity the means to escape the night and grow as a civilized species.”

So writes Sidney Perkowitz, in his article, Illuminating Light. This issue explores the nature of light and, in particular, the ‘visionary’ way it relates to science, quantum theory, myth, consciousness, poetry and art.

Artists Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand create sensory immersion environments, which investigate light, perception and consciousness. In ‘visual articles’, Nina Sellars shows her work Lucida, an autonomous image-making machine and Chris Wood explores the aesthetic potential of light and glass.

We look at James Turrell’s Visions of Light and his relationship to ‘experiencing the sky’ in When Light is Lost, Life is Lost.

J.M. Wingfield draws his inspiration from the fields of quantum theory, relative physics and cosmology, the author invites the reader to explore, through a poetic view, ideas and images as revealed through advances in theoretical science.

In The Light of Consciousness, Peter Russell explores the personal, spiritual aspect of light and asks ‘Does physical reality and the reality of the mind share common ground in light?’

Further explorations of ‘visionary’ approaches to light in art and science are provided by blogs on Tarkovsky’s Polaroids; Optogenetics; the double-slit experiment and Frederic Bonpapa’s film ‘Light Motif’.

Plus there’s a video of the greatest cinematographers and ‘Light Talks’ by Olafur Eliasson, Harald Haas, Ed Boyden, Ramesh Raskar and Rogier van der Heide.

“Light is a powerful substance. We have a primal connection to it.” James Turrell

Also this month, we’re excited to announce Wigner’s friends, a new project by artist, Diemut Strebe in collaboration with ESA and the Italian astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti. Wigner’s friends will be creating a universal show of all possible works of art. The Interalia Magazine will be following the project with great interest and will be featuring articles on its future progress.

Contemplating Inner and Outer Space

“Outside and inside form a dialectic of division, the obvious geometry of which binds us as soon as we bring it into play in metaphorical domains. It has the sharpness of the dialectics of yes and no, which decides everything.”

The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard

According to the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, inside and outside form a dialectics of division; hostile in their opposition and polarized in their attributes.  Yet, despite their mutual resistance, Bachelard argues that both inside and outside depend upon one another for the sake of preserving their identities and that an aesthetic experience and “escapades of imagination” prompts a revision of the boundaries of inside and outside.

From our own consciousness to the environment we inhabit, what is the relationship between the inner and outer world? This issue begins an exploration of the blurred line between the inner and outer.

As an artist and pioneer of computer visualisations of four-dimensional geometry, Tony Robbin‘s work has provided a useful insight into four-dimensional and quasi-crystal space. Together with ‘visual articles’ by Julian Voss-Andreae, Greg Dunn and Marc Yankus, they explore the interaction of art and science in revealing insights between inner and outer space. Michael Benson discusses images of space through time in an article about his new book Cosmigraphics.

B Alan Wallace, Marianne Rankin and Michael Falzoni explore the personal, spiritual aspect of space and consciousness.

In Inner Space Outer Space, artist Liliane Lijn speaks with 12 scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at the Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, where she was Artist in Residence in 2005 as part of an ACE, NASA, Leonardo Network International Fellowship.

Further explorations are provided by blogs on Andy Warhol’s landmark film ‘Inner and Outer Space’, the Dance Theatre Out Innerspace‘s performance of ‘Vessel’, Joseph Campbell’s book ‘The Inner Reaches of Outer Space’ and Edia, a cosmology of digital space by Willy Le Maitre

Ecocide: Arts, Resistance and Social Change

If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced… to at most 350 ppm.” – Dr. James Hansen, NASA climate scientist

Today CO2 registers at 400 parts per million in our atmosphere, and industrial civilisation contributes another 2 ppm annually – dangerously high levels that risk triggering irreversible climate change impacts. (http://350.org/about/science/ ) Simultaneously, ecocide is endemic across our planet; the UN Environment Programme estimates 150-200 species go extinct every year.  And scientists suggest we have 10 years to secure a viable future for biodiversity and our children.

This issue highlights a variety of artistic responses.  Internationally acclaimed artists Ackroyd & Harvey explain how their work often evolves through collaborations with scientists. Melissa Tuckey discusses socially engaged poetry in the US; plus I explore David Cooper’s surrealist painting; ecologically engaged British theatre; and through my poem ‘Earth Justice’, the mock ecocide trial held at London’s Supreme Court in 2011, initiated by Polly Higgins (http://eradicatingecocide.com/ ).

Ineffective government action and the unchecked power of corporations to continue their devastating search for fossil fuels and minerals inevitably add a political dimension.  This issue features art activism responding to a range of environmental issues; and I review ‘Disobedient Objects’, an exhibition of ‘tools of social change’ at London’s V&A.

“Whatever you love, it is under assault.  But love is a verb.  We have to let that love call us to action. That isn’t what love demands; that is what love is.”  Lierre Keith

Liberal environmentalists traditionally rely on education to initiate social change, but radical thinkers such as Lierre Keith challenge this approach.  So what are the alternatives?  How have other movements been successful in the past?

In addition, Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture Magazine, uncovers contemporary heresies that require transformation; and Dr. Jamie Vishwam Heckert talks about the inner freedom he’s discovering to tackle structures of domination.

Transformation. Transmutation


Noun: A marked change in form, nature, or appearance.


Noun: the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form.

The changing of Bodies into Light, and Light into Bodies, is very conformable to the Course of Nature, which seems delighted with Transmutations.

Sir Isaac Newton – Opticks, 2nd edition (1718), Book 3

Only by discovering alchemy have I clearly understood that the Unconscious is a process and that ego’s rapports with the unconscious and his contents initiate an evolution, more precisely a real metamorphoses of the psyche.

Carl Gustav Jung – Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”

Ken Robinson – The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything


How does the ‘alchemic’ process relate to the theory of consciousness? What is the relevance of alchemy as a metaphor in the modern world? How can creativity be encouraged? This issue looks at the idea of transformation in many ways – from the relationship between the mind and body, to structure and variation in pattern, as well as the relationship between time and space in quantum theory.

Featuring artists exploring the work of physicists, physicists studying the artistic process, this issue explores ideas that cross the boundary between art and science.

Plus, with Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources in education and in business, we explore the need for creative transformation in education and how to discover our ‘Element’.

Poised at the Edge

“Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.”

Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”

Albert Einstein: Out of My Later Years – The Scientist, Philosopher, and Man Portrayed Through His Own Words [Moral Decay (first published 1937)]

Science, art, and religion can be seen as having in common humanity’s need to explore, describe, and attempt to explain its place in the world and the universe.

This issue explores pioneering ideas and their implications and engagements within the context of future art, science and religion.

Is there a ‘Poised Realm’ between the Quantum and Classical Worlds? How is this realm related to consciousness? Is the universe a gigantic quantum computer? Are we at an important point in our history in terms of how we understand complexity and information in terms of theology? Can there be a dialogue between opposites? How can we promote new ways of perceiving the land and our relationship to it in the 21st century?

And, what can these questions tell us about the future relationship between art, science and consciousness?

Convergent Territories

A Clash of Culture is not a Disaster, it is an Opportunity (Alfred North Whitehead)

Dialogue can be considered as a free flow of meaning between people in communication, in the sense of a stream that flows between banks. It may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated. (David Bohm, 1990)

I think it’s very strange that ‘knowledge’ has been divided up in to disciplines where there’s really a continuum between things, and people have diverse ways of understanding (Anna Dumitriu, 2014)

Art/Science collaborations abound. The emergence of Sci/Art initiatives is growing, becoming common-place. Dialogue and collaboration between the arts and sciences has provided the potential to create new knowledge, ideas and processes beneficial to both fields. Artists and scientists approach creativity, exploration and research in different ways and from different perspectives, but when working together there is the opportunity to open up new ways of seeing, experiencing and interpreting the world around us.

How and why do artists engage with science? Why are scientists interested in collaborating with artists? What are the mutual benefits? What new forms of public access are created when scientists open their laboratories to artists? What can a designer learn from consulting a biologist? The more you look, the more you realize that the lines between disciplines have blurred.

A recent white paper emanating from MIT argues that the intersections of arrays of scientists (from many disciplinary areas) will be the next Kuhnian scientific revolution, a revolution broadly known as Convergence. Nobel Laureate Phillip Sharp, one of the authors of the MIT white paper, has noted: “Convergence is a broad rethinking of how all scientific research can be conducted, so that we capitalize on a range of knowledge bases, from microbiology to computer science to engineering design. It entails collaboration among research groups but, more deeply, the integration of disciplinary approaches that were originally viewed as separate and distinct. This merging of technologies, processes, and devices into a unified whole will create new pathways and opportunities for scientific and technological advancement.”

Are we in the beginning of a  ‘Convergence Revolution’? And how does this apply to both the Arts and Sciences. 

In this issue, we begin the first of a what will be a continuing exploration of the connections, both theoretical and practical, between disciplines, and its implications and engagements within the context of art, science, philosophy, culture and cultures.


Complexity, Emergence and Information

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

“Life emerged, I suggest, not simple, but complex and whole, and has remained complex and whole ever since” – Stuart Kauffman: At Home in the Universe.

“If our brains were simple enough for us to understand them, we’d be so simple that we couldn’t.” – Ian Stewart: The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World

Is the world simple or complex? Ask particle physicists and they will probably try to persuade you that the world is simple and governed by the Laws of Nature or by a single Theory of Everything. Ask a biologist, an economist a social scientist or an artist and they will tell you quite the opposite: the world is a collection of complexity and chaos. So who is right? Or is that the wrong question? Is it actually more complicated than that?

New scientific perspectives on complex systems, emergence and information have taken on wider philosophical and ‘religious’ implications. This issue explores these implications and engagements within the context of science, art and theology.

What is complexity and how does it emerge? Is there a hierarchy of complexity? Is information more fundamental than particles and can it be given objective meaning? How are artists engaging with the complex? Are we at an important point in our history in terms of how we understand complexity and information? What do these answers tell us about the nature of art, science and consciousness?