For the first time this semester, MIT offered a Vision in Art and Neuroscience course designed and taught by computational neuroscientist Sarah Schwettmann, light artist and MIT Museum Studio Manager Seth Riskin, and Professor Pawan Sinha from MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The course explored the intersection between art and neuroscience in a novel manner: by treating perception as an act of creation, the creation of an individual’s world of experience, and finding shared ground between art and neuroscience in the creative faculty of vision.

From limited and noisy sensory data with infinite potential interpretations, the brain builds a rich world of experience and expectation. 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, giving clues to its underlying framework. While exploring that framework from a neuroscientific standpoint over the course of the semester, Schwettmann, Riskin, and participants in Vision in Art and Neuroscience developed an exhibition of artworks that suspend the viewer in the moment of visual creation, allowing them to experience the constructive nature of their own perception. In 14 individual installations in Perceiving Perception, this experience – where material, illumination, and observation merge – becomes the art itself.

course website


Perceiving Perception opening in the MIT Museum and Compton Gallery:  


photos: Allan Doyle, Sarah Schwettmann, Lindsey Williams 

Vision in Art and Neuroscience was made possible through the generous support of the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and funding from the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology.