Aesthetic Universals and the Neurology of Hindu Art – Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

Aesthetic Universals and the Neurology of Hindu Art - Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

well let's see I'm first of all let me say I'm delighted and this is on the microphone eeeh honored and delighted to be invited to participate in this multi disciplinary endeavor by Professor Tom Levy and Ramesh both of whom are good friends of mine and some of you may have been a Tom read out this elaborate CV of mine but I think that we also need to congratulate Tom especially for a couple of things he was just elected to the Academy which is a very prestigious honor but even more impressive in my eyes is he he discovered King Solomon's Mines and and when I was a child I was my dream to become an archaeologist to discover King Solomon's Mines and El Dorado Elda her shangri-la which I later later discovered doesn't exist and and also cities in India like Hostin opera from the Mahabharata and which people have discovered since then so for me it's reliving the Tom here is reliving a childhood dream but the other dream I had was to become a neuroscientist or biologist and that I have partially fulfilled but you know we Indians believe in reincarnation so in my next incarnation I'll be an archaeologist now Tom asked me to give a talk on Indian art and neurology and these may have seemed almost antithetical or far removed from each other and indeed they are but I'm going to do what I can to try and bridge the gap between the two cultures between the humanities and science and I think the brain in fact is the interface between the two cultures I'm going to talk a lot about brain and also about Indian art it's going to be a sort of montage or kaleidoscope of ideas but hopefully you'll get something out of it but – before I begin on talking about neuroscience and art mainly I'll talk about Indian art because that's what I'm familiar with but the same principles I think are applied all all types of are in fact my main theme of this lecture as there are artistic universals that despite the staggering diversity of artistic styles across the world in a Tibetan art you got Renaissance art you got Greek art you got chola bronzes which are going to see many examples of you got Matisse you've got mango you got even Dada which is not even art or you know or a skull decorated with diamonds which sold for 500 million dollars recently and some of you may know and I think that's art mocking itself art mocking itself but but you know good that somebody's doing it okay but what I'd like to do is put it all in historical context and talk about a little bit about history of India and I am taking a risk being called jingoistic but you really can't understand the the ethos of Indian art and the spirit of Indian art without seeing it in proper Indian context so if you permit me for about five or ten minutes I'll just talk about India in general now of course we all enjoy we all know about India this includes both Indians immigrants and Westerners we think of when you think of India you think of cow worship and you think of yoga and you think of meditation and you think of curry okay this is the sort of stereotypes about India and let's not underestimate curry though because quite apart from we all enjoy it but it's what drove civilization the whole colonial enterprise you know like Columbus for example went and searched for spice and went in search of India and I ended up here accidentally if you hadn't ended up here the whole course of human history would have been different it's interesting to contemplate what would ever happen and you know we wouldn't be her own dammit Tom we won't be having this lecture none other okay we're it not for curry so let's not underestimate its importance but beyond that many many Americans and in fact Westerners are curious about India especially now there's been a become a global economic superpower whatever that means and on that note I'll mention that people people associate poverty with India but until about three or four centuries ago it was one of the richest countries in the if you take the Golconda diamonds just the diamond mines it was richest country in the world until the marauding hordes of Englishmen invaded and took over the country and and engaged in a lot of looting and plundering of our treasures especially the East India Company but you know famous diamonds just to give you a glimpse of this the Hope Diamond the Kohinoor diamond were from India and all the in fact the only diamond mines in the world were in India and the Emperor of vagina guard the king of Vijayanagar three for four or five centuries ago every day he would sit on a what do you call my balance on one side of the balance on this other side of the balance you'd put gold coins to balance a mountain and then he would give it to the poor just to tell you a little bit about the affluence of India despite the current view that it's very impoverished and poor okay I'm sort of going off in a tangent I'll keep doing this throughout the lecture but regarding Indian history and history of Indian culture I'll again mention let me start with the story okay and I may have not got the details right but because I'm remembering it from ten years ago it turns out that a great king in the third or fourth century AD during Gupta times though he was in some kind of trouble I don't know exactly want and he hired his Minister of Court a man a Brahmin minister and he said can he get me out of trouble and in fact the Brahmin Minister got him out of trouble he said ask whatever you want and it shall be yours and removed his lot of first or second century idea maybe third or fourth century era and he said anything I want he said anything you want so you went back and he and then he invented the game of chess and he brought it back and chest originates from India some of you may know and give it to the King I said look I wanted you to ask for a reward not I want you to ask for a reward not give me another prize you know here's this wonderful game called chess ask for your reward and it shall be yours and he said but you know I'm just a poor Brahmin I don't need a reward he said we'll ask it anyway and he said well since you insist I want one grain of rice in the first we're two grains in the second square four grains in the third square eight grains in the fourth square and so on and so forth Tilly finish all the squares and the King said well this is upset that's all you want and cotton and the Brenda the the Brahmin minister said no that's all I want you know I'm just a poor priest and then of course he's Harald Zwart mathematicians come and they were using the ancient Greek system of arithmetic and mathematics they tried to do this multiplication and after about eight or nine Ramesh will tell you eight or nine square they just got into trouble they just couldn't do the computation it took hours and hours using the ancient European method and then somebody came along and said look there is a method which was invented quite recently early millennium BC or maybe just after the birth of Christ which is called mathematics arithmetic and it uses a completely different system use that and you should be able to calculate what's going on and that was the dawn of arithmetic I mean when we think of arithmetic we usually think of when you think of India you think of zero nothing came from India right zero came from India but this is a misconception of course zero did come from India but it's known in other cultures what's critical is four concepts being simultaneously there what and that's happened only in India one is place value you say 562 it's five multiplied 106 x 10 + 2 multiplied by 1 and this is what really got mathematics going arithmetic going and therefore mathematics going and secondly base-10 the Sumerians had mathematics but used base 60 which is very cumbersome and so in other words we have one to ten and then we have separate numerals separate graphemes for each of the ten numbers and they're lucky in choosing a compact system of ten numbers what we call the decimal system and lastly of course the invention of zero and not merely zero to stand for nothing but zero as a place marker so 509 means 5 in 200 and the second place there is nothing so zero used as a place market and to to multiply by one and this of course revolutionized was a major revolution Einstein has called it the most important discovery in all of human history the invention of number the number system at zero and then of course rest is history and Ramesh will tell you it's all in all computers everything modern civilization depends on the invention of arithmetic and mathematics but what's less well known is other aspects of Indian culture for example Sanskrit which some of you here I know a Sanskrit scholars or maybe out of my depth here but probably the most ancient systematized language and panini the famous Sanskrit scholar in the second third century BC panini not to be confused with the bread panini which is Italian bread Ponton II was the first person who the Turk regarded as a father of linguistics and discovered syntactic structure and classified phonemes into what he called the two things vowels and consonants and all of that and subsequently came up with the grammar and linguistics and then of course as you know the the Sun square the Latin and Greek were offshoots when I say offcials I don't mean degenerate offshoots but sophisticated Offices of Sanskrit in India Sanskrit was preserved in its pristine isolation through an oral tradition and other things Tom and I have been talking about is reviving this tradition at UCSD and maybe reenact some of the old glorious Sanskrit plays like Shakuntala which is around the fifth century AD during the Gupta period okay now you say that's all fine we talked about Sanskrit and chests and mathematics all of which are important contributions of civilization and then I could go on and on and on but that's another lecture which I won't go into but I will mention a couple of things unique about ancient cultures like India and indeed the somatic cultures in Babylon and Sumeria and all of that as opposed to contemporary I don't want to say America but Western civilizations and cultures is two things I want to point out one is continuity and the other is harmony this is slightly different but continuity I mean if you go to Greece you have Zeus you have ancient Greek mythology but you don't have a guy named Zeus you don't go to a temple and worship Apollo's use you don't have music chantings this is named what's unique about Indian tradition and probably in this regard is probably the oldest such tradition is you can trace the lineage of ideas and culture and music and literature all the way back to the 1st 2nd millennium BC for example you see Shiva the Lord Shiva in Indus Valley seals that was about 3 3rd millennium BC and even now my gardener is called Shiva in India so this continuity is what is unique about Indian culture and indeed human culture and civilization all over the world but especially in India and as I said in the other ancient cultures throughout the world the second point I want to make us harmony and this is a little bit more subtle but again obvious to many of you here but maybe not to all of you when I go to India the place I was born mylapore is just about ten minute walk from kabbalah student temple which goes back to the first millennium BC and you go there you still see scholars Vedic scholars chanting Vedas going back to the 2nd 3rd millennium BC at least 1st millennium BC and they're still chanting the same Brahmin boys sitting sitting there in chanting the same Vedas and then you see of course the gods and goddesses you see a scalp sculpture of Shiva and you get people going and worshipping Shiva and then there is the temple guard whose name is Shiva right and you go see your brother knock him dance in the temple and the dance goes back to 1st millennium BC the sage Parata is a person who created this dance and systematized it and that dance continues today you can walk into a temple and see the tannin ge'ez or somebody dancing and showing you the cosmic dance of Shiva in their hands this sort of continuity of music lyric lore mythology dance religion all of this is unique to some of the ancient cultures like India and China and the somatic cultures and I think that's very important because you say well what's a big deal what's so big about what's a big deal about harmony and continuity why should we celebrate it because it's what make us makes us uniquely human if you if you were to ask what symbol characteristic makes is uniquely human it is culture and the continuity of tradition that's that's the core of culture right because otherwise we would be slightly different from apes but not without hair but you know it's your brain and the cultural continuity that characterizes us humans and it's called culture is universal if you leave our Texas okay so we talk about mathematics culture continuity how many resonance and now let's go on to Indian art which is the main topic of this lecture how did I get into all this well I'm mainly a neuroscientist studying the brain and I dabble in art so there may be professional art historians here so I am you know correct me if I if I say something anything anything absurd which I might very well do but I was sitting I was what went to I go to sabbatical and once every two or three years in India and I was sitting in this temple what looking at all these sculptures and normally I think of this as you know I was raised being educated partly in India but later in the West in Cambridge England in subsequent in the United States so I would look at these sculptures and regard them mainly as religious iconography right so I would see a sculpture of Parvati or Shiva it was iconography not fine art to use the Western expression but something about these great works of art started haunting me day and night and I would wake up in the middle of my sleep at night and I said my god that's a Shiva oh my god there's a power with thee so what happened it was sort of a Epiphany and then I started thinking about this as a neuroscientist as a scientist and said why do some works of art have the ability to move you to tears to shake you to the very core what's special about these great works of art be it a Michelangelo or a chola bronze so what's going on in the brain that's what I started thinking about and then I said well for example then I started looking the history of ideas about Indian art we are entering a new field it's a good idea to look at history of ideas the lineage of ideas and I looked at some of the bronzes which South India is famous for this is from the chola dynasty chola art is famous for its bronzes especially also for stone sculptures but especially for its bronzes and this whole exhibit as you know is Tom and Elena's brainchild they actually what I've been calling the continuity of tradition and culture they went and did a thorough archeology in India in Swami Malay where this tradition has continued for a thousand years probably earlier than that going back to visvakarma going back to the you know ancient times so so I looked at these sculptures and I just looked at the history of ideas about this and you know the English came here during Victorian times came to India and they were appalled by this I should say there are two waves of Englishmen initially there was they were very enlightened Englishmen the English aristocracy William Jones Havel and people like that who's William Jones in fact Gordon could discovered Sanskrit he was the one who said it's more perfect and more beautiful in some ways in Greek in Latin whether you agree with him or not he was a founder of linguistics and fill all of our company in the 1st millennium BC and comparative linguistics he founded the science of comparative English Duke William Jones so hats off to William Jones so then I looked at the history of subsequent invaders from England especially the hoi polloi connected with the East India Company and they looked at some of these bronzes and they said my god they're hideous right so for example here it's Parvati the the consort of Shiva who according to the chola bronze art this is a very epitome of feminine grace poise sensuality everything good about being a woman right so the perfection of womanhood so now the the Victorian Englishman comes and looks at it and he says my god it's it's hideous because it's abnormal it doesn't look realistic like a real woman it's got hips they're too big the waist is too narrow like an hourglass the breasts are exaggerated there's something you know not quite real about that woman and of course and of course they said the same thing about mogul minions of paintings medieval Indian sculpture like that from Rajasthan from around the 10th or 11th century saying that the proportions are all exaggerated and of course in saying this they're missing the whole point of art because everybody here knows that the point of art is not realism is not to go and copy some that mean I can take a $10 camera these days and then take a photograph of Tom here and you won't give me a dollar for it okay even though it's super realistic and all that so art is not about realism nothing personal art is about art is of a deliberate exaggeration hyperbole even distortion of the image to evoke specific moods and sentiments in the human brain and this when I looked at the by the way just as an aside these same Englishman same Westerners who criticized Indian art for not being realistic doesn't look like a real woman they said you come to the 20th century early 20th century and you get to Picasso now that doesn't look like a real woman to me I don't know about you right it's got a hunchback it's got a queen of phase two eyes on one side of her face like a flounder and it's got a clubfoot and everything is distorted about it and what did the Western critics say it said my god what a genius work of genius because he's liberated us from the tyranny of realism and recognized that's not what art is about well guess what that's what the troll of artists knew and in fact going back a thousand years earlier that art is nothing to the realism and even greater ironies you go to Victorian times the same Englishman who was criticizing Indian Tola bronzes saying the waist is too narrow and the hips are too big and the breasts are too big you go and look at his wife okay what he did was him insisted on them having their ribs removed I've seen these these these these clothes in the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons where they still and they have that skeletons of these women with the ribs missing so this is hypocrisy the same guys were criticizing the bronze saying the waist is to attenuate it was doing the same thing to his wife okay mr. rhetorical remark there now and when I gave this lecture to the Getty not long ago there's an Englishman in the audience he raised his hand English art historians and he said but professor Ramachandran surely when picasso did this his news he knew what he was doing he was doing it liberabit li whereas the taller artist may have just got it wrong okay and i said believe me the troll artist knew perfectly well what he was doing his goal was not to copy and woman you know if you want to copy something he's walking around looking at women what do you need art right he can look at photographs the whole purpose of art is lost if you want to copy something and emphasize realism and then and then I pointed out to him if you want realism in fact you can go back to the 3rd millennium BC and look at Indus Valley right so Indian artists view very well what real how to produce realistic art is a terracotta past going back to the second millennium BC in the Indus Valley and it's wonderfully realistic in fact it's more realistic than any Greek or Renaissance sculpture because look at this coming this is what real men look like ok not like those Greek gods with their muscles and flat abs you know ok so knew they knew perfectly well what realism was and they conveyed it but they also knew about abstraction look at that bronze from the Indus Valley if you saw that in a modern art gallery in Madison Avenue in New York you'd pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for it right and it's showing your dancing girl in bronze okay so the knew about abstraction as well and then by you get by the time you get to medieval times there are various shades of this sometimes puff realistic half abstract for example that is slightly exaggerated but you can see it's also realistic and that's from probably from Rajasthan or the Pradesh I don't know if Sonja's here she would give us the answer but that's around 10-30 leavens century and by the time you get the Tonto regard early part of this century sorry early part of the this millennium you get into completely abstract art in India it's called tantric art which is supposed to evoke moods and sentiments in your brain without necessarily representing anything real and that's the key now then I said well it works not real meant to convey realism what the hell is it and I'm a scientist I'm a neuroscientist what is it then so I was looking over some script art manuals sunscreen manuals and art which again go back a long time goes back to sage Parata in the first millennium BC and later in abhinavagupta I think 10th century AD I'm not quite sure it could be nine for eleven to the ad and if you look at these Sanskrit art manuals there is a recurring word called rasa and rasa is a word that's difficult to translate and what it roughly means is capturing the very soul the essence the spirit of something to convey a specific mood sentiment or emotion in the viewers brain so that the entire sentence is encompassed in that one word as they can convey through dance Shobha is going to do this maybe about a couple of months from now in January he's still getting it organized but Shobha is a very distinguished dance exponent and she might be doing this dance a couple of months from now and I invite you all to be here if that happens so I mean there's some details about the venue needs to be sorted out but I'm sure it'll be sorted out so what is rasa as I said it's too let me give you some examples traditionally there are nine Russ's but we can sort of expand on that for example here you've got two lovers celestial lovers in from khajuraho right and prop medieval times probably 11th 10th century and you can see that it's two lovers gazing into each other's eyes in everlasting intimacy right and there is something otherworldly about their eyes that's part of the beauty of Indian sculpture it's not it's Reed's human and yet divine and notice how he's holding her chin so this is supposed to represent the rasa of amorous ecstasy sensuality sexual intimacy love okay he's holding her chin raising it towards him a sort of long anticipated kiss right but she's not quite ready look at she's holding his hand there and holding on to it so saying not quite yet right so there is this palpable erotic tension being built up as you look at that image and that's part of the power of that visual image of that sculpture and initial is not obvious what's going on but when you when you look at it carefully the artist has used all these devices so this is to evoke the shrinker rasa or kama rasam okay and similarly you can go on and on there's another example of kama rasam that is the Lord kama with his ro like essentially like Cupid there's a lot of cross-fertilization of ideas between Europe and India at that time it's not clear which way it went but it doesn't matter and you can see the torsion of his body the contortion of his body as he's releasing the bow from his sorry release the arrow from his bow at these memfs who are sort of contorted in erotic you know conveying the zero arctic tension that's going on in that image I think it's one of the most one of my favorite images of medieval art now okay so then the question is as a neuroscientist and as a Punisher of art what's going on in the brain to tell you the truth nobody has the foggiest idea but I've got a couple of few hunches and I'm going to tell you about that so I was sitting near the temple precincts and are saying to myself what is it about these images the chola bronze bronzes or medieval indian art that evokes such powerful emotions in your brain what is it what are their artistic universals in other words you've got this tremendous diversity bewildering diversity of different artistic styles but in spite of that are there any common principles that cut across cultural boundaries and in saying this I want to emphasize that nobody's denying the tremendous importance of culture in art otherwise it wouldn't be art history right you got Indian art to get Tibetan ordered you got Monet you got Renaissance art you got Impressionism you get Expressionism all of that stuff right so no one is denying the importance of culture but as a scientist I'm interested in what is common across cultures is there a universal grammar of art the transcends cultures transcends culture and also on emphasize this is really about the universal grammar of aesthetics rather than our because once you start talking about art there's an element of arbitrariness and marketing and all of that that comes in which we can't deal with the scientists I mean you can take us Pig and put a diamond on it and charge five million dollars for it as be inherent lay dead right they can call it art so and then you can you know the solar not Roger you can get a good tollana Roger for about two million dollars or 1 million dollars why you call it not Roger because you call it an art but why would a pay with the diamond on and fetch five and five hundred million dollars and I tried that they fetch two million dollars is holy unclear to me maybe somebody in the audience can explain it to me so this shows that the tremendous arbitrariness to art so I'm going to stay away from art and talk mainly about aesthetics the neuroscience of aesthetic and then we'll return to Tala bronzes which is the main theme of the exhibit okay so what are these laws of art now as I said it cuts across cultural boundaries in fact it cuts across phylogenetic boundaries animals how art birds have art right if you go to the New Guinea and Australia that the power bird which is a nondescript bachelor baobab very very nondescript looking guy not in the least attractive and he has to impress the female how does he do it most male birds have this colorful feathers in all of that and a dance and bow but doesn't do that what he does is build elaborate bachelor pads with the jewelry you know he takes a little bit of cigarette foil if he can find it he puts it there berries of red and he puts it on one corner grouping them they even have lawns the powers are this big the bird is this big and he constructs as a lamb but about impresses may okay so if you look at it it looks very very aesthetically pleasing you cliff you didn't tell anybody and you put it in a Madison gallery somebody might pay a few thousand dollars to buy purchased this and not realizing is created by a birdbrain so this emphasizes that these principles of art cut across cultural boundaries and in fact take something much simpler why do you find birds of paradise or butterflies beautiful butterflies are not interested in looking beautiful to humans they evolve to look beautiful to other butterflies the butterfly's brain diverged from your brain about six hundred million years ago going back earlier than the morning interns Precambrian times and yet they have the same aesthetic principles like symmetry and color that you and I do because of this one I'm called aesthetic universals okay so what are these universals who's it going to have a stab at it and given our time limits only God going to talk about three or four universals not all of them one of my favorites is what I call peak shift or hyperbole and of course this relates to what I said earlier about art it's not about real as not about representation although that does have a role but mainly about hyperbole and exaggeration and Distortion now when I say hyperbole and distortion you can't take something a person or a nude or an animal or a landscape and randomly distort it and call it art although they do it in La Jolla right but but it has to be in a systemic direction that's what makes it refined art so then the question is what do you mean by systematic directions and science unex discoveries come from unexpected insights come from unexpected sources and my okay before I get into aesthetic universals a word about visual perception you cannot understand visual art how does the art create images that disturb you that are aesthetically pleasing you can't understand that without understanding something about vision just regular vision and how the brain sees things now people think of vision of something quite simple and I was talking to a priest the other day when I was flying to San Francisco from San Diego and Southwest Airlines and he said what do you do for a living and I said I study perception I study the brain and I study vision and perception he said what what's there to study and I said well what do you think happens in your brain when you look at something he said well you look at this cup of tea and there's an image on my eye and my in Breton arm then it's sent through this cable called the optic nerve and it's made right-side up because it's upside down in the eye and you display it on the screen in the brain kind of visual area of the brain now there's a fundamental fallacy here because if you display an image on the brain then you need another little guy you need another little guy to look at that image and there is no little guy in your head just a slab of meat with 100 100 billion neurons right so the pattern of firing of these neurons or represents the object there's no picture in the brain if you had a little guy looking at it that doesn't solve the problem you could because you need another little guy in his head this goal goes on and on ad infinitum you don't really solve the problem of perception so this suggests that perception is an extraordinarily complex process in fact in the human brain people think a perception is taking place here but in fact that in area area visual area but in fact there are 30 visual areas in the primate brain probably more than the human brain areas handling different aspects of vision and there's a progressive refinement in your translation of the optic image in the retina to the final act aah-ha of perceiving the object there are umpteen stages in between so this is what makes an arc possible because if it's just tending an image and displaying it on the screen art wouldn't work right so what you need is to change the image in specific ways to more optimally titillate the visual centers in the brain and to send signals to your reward centers in the brain to the limbic structures to say aha right so there's all of these different laws of our time talking about our stimulating these different 30 different areas more optimally then you could do with just looking at a person that's why art is special it's doing much more than just looking at just the world and looking at people that's what makes art special so what are these laws of art this is just to emphasize that vision is not simply transmitting an image to your brain there's much more going on if you look at that it's a famous mother-in-law daughter-in-law figure and some of you see the young lady with the chin with the year of the nose how many of you see that the young lady okay most of you here especially the men how many of you see the old lady in this image only two or three okay let me explain the young lady's neck is the old lady's chin and that mark that becomes all lady's mouth and the old lady unlaid E's chin becomes the old lady's nose okay so the point I'm trying to make is that the image is constant in your eye but your perception completely changes between every act of perception involves judgment by the observer in models forming an opinion on the state of affairs in the world it's not a passive transformation of an image and being displayed in the brain and that's why the artists can manipulate the image to create pleasing effects in your brain so what are these laws of art let's take a few examples peak shifter hyperbole what do I mean by that peak what do I mean by that that's a very simple law which comes from animal behavior and rats believe it or not so if we train our RAM to discriminate a square from a rectangle give it cheese every time it sees a rectangle very soon it starts going to just the rectangle it learns the rectangle means food fine okay this is classical skin Aryan behaviorism but if you make a rectangle after it's been trained after the rats being trained to distinguish a square from a rectangle rectangle means the reward you give it a long skinny rectangle the RAM prefers this to this now that's very odd it's kind of stupid because the rats been shown a rectangle and thought that means food why does it prefer a longer skinnier one to the original the answer is not stupid at all because what the rat is learned is a rule rectangularity right so the aspect ratio is different then it's a rectangles it's not the rule and this is even more rectangular because aspect ratio is even higher so it says my god what a rectangle and it goes for that so in other words the rat is London this is called peak shift because the peak response is shifted away from what the rat was taught now you say well what the hell does that gotta do with human art envision well let me explain take caricature what are you doing caricature suppose you wanted to make a caricature of bush or mixon or anybody let's say Nixon what you do is you take the average human face and then you subtract it from Nixon's face to get what's special about Nixon his huge bulbous nose is shaggy eyebrows and then you amplify the difference and then you capture the Raza Nixon okay the essential aspects of Nick Nixon that's why the caricature looks even more like Nixon than Nixon himself okay now you say well that's fine but that's a cartoon well if you do the exaggeration just right and only a genius like Rembrandt can do this you get great portraiture or caricature sorry great portraiture if you overdo it then you get caricature which is not what a Rembrandt was doing now what's this got to do with chola bronzes well same thing what the chola artist is doing taking a woman and saying what's special about a woman what makes a difference from a man so taking the average man and subtracting them from the average woman and of course it's the bigger breasts and bigger hips and narrow waist and he amplifies it and in fact titillates your brain and makes you say my god what a woman what a beautiful woman but that's not all there is to it otherwise you just look like a pinup right what there is going on here is there's also the elegance of posture what we call the Bunga and she's holding a beautiful rose in her fingers the Phantom Rose okay and then the the separation of the left arm from that from the thigh all of this is part these are very elegant artistic devices that the artist is used to convey because a woman also has poise and grace it's not just that she's Vallabh seasoned she looks like a woman she also got poise and grace how does he do this he goes into an abstract mathematical space you see there are some poses that a guy cannot adopt even if he tries if I do this is because of pelvic Anatomy the angle between the neck of the femur and the shaft of the femur so I can't do it even if I try a woman can do it effortlessly so he goes into that posture space and then he subtracts the male form of the female form and exaggerates that posture right and that's how he's conveying that rasa of elegance and feminine grace and dignity and poise and many other devices which I won't go into now same thing here she looks completely unrealistic no one no woman has a waist like that or press that big or hips that big but maybe some women do but most of them don't okay and what he author artist is done is exaggerated and amplified that the result is not a comical caricature it's a great work of artists in the Metropolitan Museum where you can see also her playful expression and she's dancing in in abandon and you can see the twist of the torso in fact an exaggerated twist of the parcel conveying this movement and sense of dance and playfulness all in that one sculpture okay then you say well this is all fine dr. Ramachandran but what about abstract art what about Rodin which is sort of semi realist it's not even realistic what about Henry Moore this is not realistic how do you begin to explain or a mango or a mijo how do you explain these types of art using your model because there's no realism there well I can or I can give it a shot and if you go into youth ology and this is where unexpected insights come from when you're doing it doing science in ethology if you go back to Oxford about 50 years ago ethology is named Tim Bergen who got no doubt got a Nobel Prize for this work was looking at seagulls you see these on our coast here they're called herring gulls they got a yellow beak with a red spot now as soon as the seagulls chick hatches it goes and starts pecking at that red spot immediately and the seagull then regurgitates have digested food into the gaping chicks mouth the chick swallows the food and he's happy so Tim Bergen I asked a question which a child would ask but most adults wouldn't that is how do the chick know who's an adult seagull with a beak full of food right so Tim Bergen did the obvious experiment he plucked the beak off the seagull I mean presumably after it was dead and then he used as the years his ethologist waving this beak in front of the check and the chick continues to beg for food even though there's this guy holding his enormous ego there's only this beak so that means as far as seagull is concerned that is mom that beak and you say well that's weird why would it think a disembodied beak is mom that's kind of stupid well it's not stupid because what goal of vision and perception is to do as little computation as you need to do for the job and hand using shortcuts if necessary using heuristics and in this case you can take advantage of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution to two-wire in your brain a primitive template and that is the only time statistically I'm going to see that long thing with a red spot is when there is a mother attached so why do I need to worry about the entire mother whenever I see that beak with a red spot I'll beg for food because beet means mom I'm not going to encounter a beak I'm not going to encounter a malicious ethologist waving a beak in nature nor a pig with a mutant pig with a beak okay in nature I'll always see it with a mom so I can I can avoid the computational burden of the entire mom and just look at the beak but now comes the clincher what Tim Burgin found was forget about the bee you take a long yellow stick with the red spot the chicks still go to it because the system in the brain that template has a tolerance just like you can use a rusty key to open a lot doesn't have to be perfect so the neuronal systems in the brain are not perfect you just give a yellow rod with a spot still the chick gets fooled and goes and begs for food but now the bottom line Tim Bergling squid long yellow stick and put three red stripes on it and the chicks go crazy they go berserk and all of them are attracted to it like a magnet and they all congregate and start packing incessantly preferring that the original be and lead to the mother which is that's really stupid why did it this thing doesn't even look like a beak right why is it preferring this why is it fetishizing this object the answer is we don't know the what the grammar of vision is what the neurons are doing maybe there we have a rule that says the more red contour the better so what you've done is you created tim Bergen without realizing it has accidentally stumbled on a super beak which is actually more optimally stimulating these beak neurons in the brain than a real big and this gives a jolt to the chick's limbic system saying wow what a sexy beak right and it goes crazy and starts fetishizing this object now you say what's this got to do with human art well let me tell you again it's deviating from realism this is what all of you all of you in other words if the seagull chick had an art gallery if seagulls had an art gallery they would hang the stick with the three stripes on the wall pay hundreds of millions of dollars worship it and regarded is a great work of abstract art in other words what I'm saying is that the great works of abstract art the great artists like Picasso or Monet or all of these people are down on end anymore they've discovered the figural primitives the equivalent of this long stick with the three stripes for your human brain and then they're playing with these primitives that's what's going on and that's what you're doing when you go to these contemporary art galleries and playing paying of dollars to buy these Amtrak works are you behaving exactly like a bird brain like a chick's brain okay okay you can see many examples of that I can give you Henry Moore and you can ask yourself what primitives is it activating in your brain and we can make you speculate on that but I won't go into it another principle I want to tell you about art is contrast oops doesn't go backwards by the way okay good this is cousin Miho and contrast is essentially so I'm going through a list of my laws one by one I'm going to do only tell you about four laws given our time limitations so another law of art is contrast and by the way I'm talking more about aesthetics again to emphasize aesthetics and design rather than art per se but the same they overlap to a great extent so the same principles also applied art to significant extent so if you're talking about design for example or some types of art contrast is very important if I water a tie of the same color you wouldn't find it interesting or alerting or artistic or aesthetically pleasing it's fortunate is all this contrast going on which makes it interesting so the minimum requirement for art is contrast and this is sort of obvious you can say it and see it in some types of art like this example from mijo which is one of my most one of my favorites another one again from you or the area of contrast not just of luminance but of color now closely another principle of art is perceptual grouping and what I'm claiming is each of these areas is performing different types of computation on the visual image and when it succeeds it sends you in a hard jolt to your limbic structures and then each of these processes is separately linked to the limbic structures to give you this aesthetic jolt so for example you look at this mostly people see just a bunch of blobs except psych undergraduates who've seen this hundreds of times but those of you who are not psych undergraduates what do you see okay Dalmatian you've seen have you seen it before no okay you're good okay you're colorblind that's nothing to do with this but so here you see a Dalmatian dog sniffing the ground how many of you start seeing it raise your hands okay it takes a little bit of time but once you grasp it it's just you haven't seen it yet you do yeah once you see it you get this a hot jolt so in perception there is a problem-solving aspect of perception and the struggle to discover it in the final climactic aha is very pleasing to the eye and many artists explore they exploit this it's called perceptual problem-solving and you'll see its relevance you may say what got cigar with chola bronzes but we'll come back to that in a little bit okay so we talked about contrast in in perception we've talked about in design okay we've talked about perceptual problem-solving and I've shown you an image let's take contrast I just took talking about my tie and I talked to you about me hole right but what about an Indian sculpture well you can have contrast not just of color and of luminance but in higher dimensions like texture so what the artist is done here very cleverly first of all of course this peak shift and all that and the necklace is flying off her chest which gives it this sense of movement and dance these are all very subtle you don't realize it when you first look at it but also notice that her smooth supple flesh of a nude body contrast with the Baroque jewelry on enhancing the smoothness and suppleness of her skin and sensuality of her skin so these are all again artistic devices to be and this is often used in medieval sculptures indeed him in chola bronzes you would see poverty but you see one strand of necklace accentuating her feminine grace and her skin and some of the smoothness of her skin now another principle of art and I told you about contrast and grouping so you just saw an example of contrast let's go back to grouping something wrong with this okay good grouping now what's this got to do with the art and design well let's go back to my tie let's take design the purpose of vision it turns out when you evolved up in the treetops by the way I have a strong evolutionary approach to many of these problems I believe strongly in evolution of the human through national selection I don't believe in intelligent design and is odd that our president has been championing this view given that his own existence is a living negation of intelligent design okay let's go back to evolution the goal of goal of perception is to discover objects and discover object boundaries and if you look at evolution all the time creatures are trying to disguise themselves called camouflage so you got a leopard with a bunch of so you see let's say you see a lion behind foliage all the brain sees a bunch of yellow splotches you don't know it's a lion just be a bunch of yellow splotches but the brain says your visual areas what's the likelihood that they are all identical yellow splotches by by chance zero they must all belong to one object let me group them like you just group them here when you group it you said my god it's a line let me get out of here okay so it's all about discovering objects and object boundaries so this is one believe it or not every time this sales girl or salesman in Nordstrom's picks this time for me and says look the blue matches this your harking back to the fact that your your ancestral primates were dodging lions he's tapping into that principle it's not an arbitrary marketing device okay and of course the same thing when you choose a mat for a painting you deliberately choose if it's got some green and you pick out the green in your mat so what the hell does that mean pick it out is that some arbitrary hype marketing or is it reflecting some deep brain principle and I'm answering that question and saying it's reflecting some deep principle of organization in the brain okay another principle of art is what I call the principle of isolation now what do I mean by that well one of the well-known aspects of art is the famous remark of less is more the I art 100 statement whether in literature poetry or in visual art so this contradicts what I said about peak shift then I'm talking about exaggeration in hyperbole now I'm talking about understatement well on these laws are antithetical so there's a paradox but in science often you try to resolve paradoxes it's not really a paradox because when you think about what's going on when you when you see a visual image or a great work of art if you have a visual scene and then keep in mind that the brain has limited attentional capacity even though there are 100 billion neurons at any given time only one pattern can sustain one pattern can be then it can exist which means there's a bottleneck of attention you can't pay attention to multiple images at the same time so when you look at a person for example you vision is this why is it that that girl there to sketch from a book I just picked out or a little doodle of a bull by Picasso or renewed by Klimt and we think of paintings but they used to make little doodles it just one little line is much more evocative of this nude than a playboy pinup and much more aesthetically pleasing than a Chippendale pinup or a play by pinup now why would that be after all the Playboy or a Chippendale pinup has got color it's got shape it's got shading and all of that it's going to evoke multiple activity in your brain therefore to be more powerful and give you a big jolt but it in fact the little doodle of Picasso or Klimt or this doodle here it's more evocative why would that be why would understatement be effective the answer is when you look at a real image or a very colourful shaded image the brain given its limited attentional capacity is not I'll be able to pay attention to the critical dimensions what sets that image apart from other images other similar images so what the art is doing is eliminating all the clutter from image so a nude has the same skin as anybody else right what's critical about her is the outline or the form she has the same color she has the same skin she's the same hair but all of that is irrelevant to her beauty as a nude so what the artist is doing is just taking the outline and introducing peak shifts to your brain set up in resonance here is a drawing by an eight-year-old autistic child who can't interact with people there's no language and is quote-unquote retarded which conveys the rasa of a horse it's leaping out from the canvas it's got movements got energy what is sensual about horses capture and bam believe it or not believe it he's a horse drawn by the great Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci and if I hadn't told you that and I've done surveys on people majority of people pick that as being more elegant than that they said this is life its animated it's jumping out there's got too many lines in it and it's too busy so how is it possible that in retarded autistic child creates a greater work of art than ever in iceland's genius the answer is the principle of isolation so what's happened in the autistic child is many of the other brain modules are functioning sub normally or not optimally so all the attentional resources are now diverted to the single Island the particle tissue it turns out that your right parietal is involved in your sense of artistic proportion so all your attention is shifted to the right parietal and that is now hyper functioning so this person creates all these amazing works of art conveying the essential aspects of a horse okay now that's another example of understatement and also combining different laws here you have perceptual problem-solving initially it doesn't look like anything but then of course you soon start seeing a nude and is much more evocative than a playboy pinup for example for the same reason of the importance of perceptual problem-solving an understatement in art now we can move on to some other images and here again you see this element of building up tension perceptual problem-solving there are other principles going on like closure which and other gifts all principles I don't have time to go into but notice that she's about to kiss him but not quite kissing him this builds up anticipation but notice also that he's trying to strip off her jeans holding it very elegantly between his index finger and thumb about to strip off her jeans and yet she is holding on tight to the jeans and saying not yet not yet okay so this is what builds up that erotic tension while you watch that image it's a clever artistic device which is not immediately obvious there are many other things going on there too which I won't go into sorry that's correct very important that you make very important whoops going the wrong way that's right now you don't say you don't look at it and say the fingers are abnormal the arm is twisted abnormally anatomically is incorrect and all of that right because then you want to do that you're going to look at textbook of Gray's and at Gray's textbook of anatomy your beautiful anatomy there so nothing to do with Anatomy it's about creating that mood of intimacy and that the artist is successfully doing you're right I mean there is a twist of the head which is not realistic in some ways and I'm going to talk about another principle and with this we're almost done in about 5-10 minutes that is the principle of metaphor visual metaphor now when you think of metaphor and analogy we think of literature like when Tagore said of the Taj Mahal it's a teardrop on the cheek of time conveying the sadness of that great Monument at the same time it's shaped like a teardrop so the multiple layers of metaphors the Tagore is invoking but when Shakespeare says it is the east and Juliet is the Sun Juliet is the Sun well you don't say does that mean she's a glowing ball of fire well actually schizophrenic do that but there's another lecture what all of us say is that no she's radiant like the Sun she's nurturing like the Sun she's warm like the Sun she rises in bed like the Sun rises in the east everything you know everything that comes to your mind and Shakespeare was a master so what a metaphor is is linking seemingly unrelated things and a sort of a resonance between different layers of meaning and you do the same thing in visual art not just in literature and poetry so let's take an example of this medieval nymph probably from khajuraho again I'm not sure the exact location but I know it's roughly lement century so first of all the continuity of contour and the grouping principle which I didn't talk about and also the principle of contrast the jewelry and her supple skin peak shift and all of that but something else going on now she's looking heavenwards towards God towards enlightenment right and it conveys that a spur but also a little bit more less subtle is that those mangoes hanging on that arch that both of the tree there are supposed to symbolize the fertility of spring the the fecundity and fertility of spring of nature echoed by her breasts which also the youthful Bret's also signify fecundity and fertility so the mangoes become an echo visual like over breast but also a metaphorical echo of fertility so all this again is conveyed by the artist maybe unconsciously maybe consciously to evoke those images in your brain similarly another example of metaphor and if you want to go read more about all of this you can read I in reg simmer about Hindu art or ananda coomaraswamy about Hindu art so this is an example I think it's of Lakshmi Narayanan but could equally be a shiva and parvathi but I think it's Lakshmi Narayanan the cosmic couple and look at how she got her arm around his neck now here I'm just wandering away from neuroscience nothing to do with neuroscientists about connoisseurship of Indian art okay she's got her arm draped around him in intimacy so the lines flow into each other right to convey that sense of intimacy and closeness but also she's looking at his his eyes he's looking at the cosmos and she's looking at his eyes okay and at first it looks like an interesting sculpture she's leaning on him and has an arm over his shoulder but there's many layers of meaning to it and metaphor fundamentally what the artist is trying to convey is although dual all those apparently double the God and the goddess there are actually two aspects of one single of a unity okay and in saying that he's talking about all the dualities and polarities and antagonisms that you see in nature for example night and day good and evil yin and yang male and female all of these are just dual aspects of a single cosmic reality that's what he's trying to convey in that image and of course there are more obvious images like are than are it not he sure I won't go into but that's one of the things he's trying to convey in that image now let me almost conclude there two or three more slides with another example of chola bronzes this is the cosmic depicts the cosmic dance of Shiva it's a South Indian chola bronzes going back to xi could be twelve with probably lemon century and there's a beautiful example of this a modern replica which belongs to Tom Levy and Alena and they've kindly donated it to the museum I'm sorry to the to the library or you loaned it okay alright they loaned it I didn't look so nice that it should remain here on permanent view okay so actually borrowed his job but anyway so no it's of course representing the cosmic dance of Shiva surrounded by this Oriole or this halo and initially it's a beautifully poised elegant sculpture but there's a great deal more going on it is supposed to symbolize the cosmic dance of the universe itself is not just Shiva and the artist has used various clever devices to convey this and as you look at it more and more it becomes more and more beautiful it's a great thing about about our great works of art the unlike you know kitsch or art that's not great each time you look at it it becomes lesson it's interesting the grade art is the obvious each time you look at it I'm looking at it for the hundredth time and it's even more beautiful than the 99th time is like Beethoven's fifth each time you hear it it's more beautiful each time you see this it's more beautiful so what's going on here well as I said at a literal level it's a beautifully poised sculpture standing on this dwarf with the bent leg which gives it that poise and balance but there's a great deal of metaphor going on as I said it represents the depicts the cosmic dance of Shiva and the dance of the cosmos itself and the Oriole here depicts the cyclical nature of time the eternally cyclical nature of time and these flames represent the punctuated nature of time and indeed represents the pulse beat of animate matter so that's what he's conveying that to convey the dance what he has done is to first of all of courses his movements and he's got the arms thrown out in sort of the centrifugal or centripetal I should say energy of the arms going flailing in different directions but the hair also being thrown away from the face conveying this agitation and movement and energy of the cosmos which is the cosmic dance of Shiva but in the midst of all this agitation and energy and movement is a supremely tranquil expression conveying and of course it's bent leg conveying stability and peace and eternity in the midst of all this agitation and frenzy and turmoil that you call the cosmos of the universe but let me pause here and to say I'm not trying to preach any religion here because it's raised as a Hindu but I'm as a scientist I'm supposed to say I'm agnostic okay but I my familiarity was mainly with Hindu Hindu art and Indian art so that's why I'm laboring this point but it's equally true of many works of Western art including Renaissance art but going back to the civil and Raja so how amazing that the artist is conveyed in one image the seemingly antithetical elements of poise repose dignity tranquility and calmness on the one hand and stability which represents God in eternity amidst all this frenzy and turmoil that we call that the cosmos of the universe but there's much more going on that's just the beginning of it notice in his right hand he's holding a tambour that is beating the rhythm of the cosmos which I caused the rhythm of the flames the punctuated nation of the flames but that's bringing the cosmos into existence balanced out perfectly in his left hand by a flame the flame of destruction so creation and destruction balanced out precisely by the two hands and then look at his expression as well it's tranquil saying I'm stable and calm and eternal but at the same time in summer building all night Roger images are the same it's not true you'll see a few more images the iconography is similar but each image is different in some of them there is a little enigmatic smile on the face of Shiva as though he was smiling at life and death alike and looking at his own creation and sort of gently smiling at his own creation of the cosmos okay so the expression is vital and then you come down here and there is this bent right leg which is what gives the whole composition its is its balance okay and it's standing on this little Kittitas little dwarf I don't know people at the very back and see it and what is that dwarf it's called ignorance or Maya or delusion so what is this delusion that Shiva is crushing it's a delusion that all of us scientists and mortals have that in reality there's only one reality and that is all of us are just a mindless agitation and movement of molecules that's it right so he and there's no deeper realities what Shiva is telling you is he's crushing this demon and saying behind appearances he's a deeper reality namely the supreme truth of God and Shiva so dispel this illusion the second illusion he's destroying is we all have this perception of ourselves we arrive here briefly momentarily on this planet it's called life and then it's snuffed out it's called death and it's all gone it's all empty and dark right so what Shiva is trying to depict is the very nature of time many western sculptures like Michelangelo's David brilliant brilliantly evokes a particular moment in time what the troller artist is trying to do is to depict the very nature of time right and he's saying dispel this illusion that you arrive here and you're merely a spectator watching the events in the cosmos realize that you are not a spectator who arrives here momentarily you are in fact part of the great dance of Shiva great dance of the cosmos and once that realization occurs you attain moksha and you become one with the cosmos one with the supreme reality of Shiva so fear not be happy okay that's what he is saying right and then he's saying once you've dispelled the illusion of Maya seek solace under my raised left foot and then he says he's blessing the devotee for having attained moksha enlightenment and then he says with his right hand with a higher mudra saying and all will be well because there is no such thing that's death and birth you're one with the cosmos in reality so all of these layers of metaphor in this beautiful bronze icon which you're going to see in a few minutes but the English Victorians arrived in India and Sir George Birdwood who is a great Indian officer and I shouldn't say great but his Indian art historian by the way have nothing against the English are very close English friends I'm talking about 19th century reactions so this Englishman Lord Sir bird would come and looked at and he said it's a multi-armed monstrosity how can a human being have four arms and legs and all of this doesn't make any sense so it's primitive art now if I had been around at that time I would say what about angels depicted in Victorian paintings you know with this wings sprouting off babies and as a medical man I can tell you I have seen babies of multiple arms you see it in streaked shows you see in teratology anatomy museums but a child a baby with wings is an atomically impossible right so what I'm driving a little stained I just couldn't see the many layers of metaphors being conveyed by this great work of art now you're going to see many examples just other example not here's another nut Raja completely different again conveying the dance of Shiva different expression different movements different position everything is different and I can show you 100 images but I won't go on and on that shows Saint some wonder the little child Saint dancing an abandoned because suddenly he realized the truth that he's one with Shiva and he's pointing heavenwards with his index finger saying I have realized the truth right and the great thing about chola bronzes by the way and I'm going to conclude very soon is many things have been said about chola bronzes you should all go read about it but to me the great thing is it combines more elegantly and more effectively than any other form of art in the world the human and the divine it's that perfect balance between the human in the divine the troll artist strives to achieve and that's what he succeeded how did he think of that image shipment or the images that meant Raja I mean how did he even think of that so that's st. Simon there who has attained in my enlightenment and it's dancing enjoys abundant joy his abandon that is Krishna having just vanquished evil in a rock show sir the Naga Raksha sir that may be a bit confused about Indian mythology here but but liberating moksha right and then standing triumphantly there blessing all of mankind for having liberated us from from the evil of the snake and you could go on and on and on that shows your lovely example actually from Sri Lanka which had a lot of Salaam till art moved from India medieval times to Sri Lanka they developed their own after stick style which is very similar to Sri Lanka except there's a Buddhist influence too and that's one of my favorite images showing again that beautiful poise and elegance and look at his face and it's slightly tilted had you're going to see something like this in the little part of the theme from my collection of Diane sitting over there in the Indian the gallery okay so what else I think we'll go back to North Raja and say I'd like to conclude with that there's been a sort of a montage of science neuroscience connoisseurship art art history Indian history and everything else hope you liked it thank you


  • Maggie McCain says:

    Thank you for this commentary!

  • Rodney Leon says:

    Having gold doesn't create wealth.

  • Rodney Leon says:

    Is something wrong with his mouth?

  • CyberdelicXP says:

    As an artist, who wishes he was smart enough to be a scientist…this is awesome. Also I love the comparison, between the Davinci and Autistic child drawing if horse. I think it's time we just changed "Austistic" to "ART istic"

  • Adam Mangler says:

    Wonderful presentation – most impressive – Warm Thanks!

  • Rama Bommaraju says:

    Very informative! Thank you!!

  • buzzin1975 says:

    Columbus was after gold, not spices

  • jordanf451 says:

    I like when this guy talks about science, BUT seeing ART dissected and reduced to neurological principals makes me scream in pain. Don't do this, please…

  • Indrojyoti Dattatryey says:


  • Vinod Hr says:

    Typical British arrogant argument, they know what they are doing but not others.

  • Crauniez says:

    You've got to love professor Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

  • mr snoop says:

    avg IQ in india is 82 … I don't think the english plundering is responsible for your poverty, the westerners brought high-tech to the non-europeans

  • lordoftheflings says:

    Why does he sound like a scottish man?

  • ethan pettit says:

    This guy is great! Wow. Incandescent.

  • Russel Ingersoll says:


  • Anila Reddy says:

    love this guy

  • Kartheek Al says:


  • Yasmine Griffiths-Williams says:

    Really good points on Eastern culture & art however this lecture is annoyingly heteronormative and cisnormative.

  • Jaankaari says:

    Any thinking man could come to the conclusion of a number which meant "nothingness" or "emptyness", but it took a genius like Brahmagupta to transform it into a real number and use it the way it's used now.  And that's an INVENTION, not a discovery.

    India's contribution to literature, mathematics and philosophy (I consider these three the most important subjects and sources for the human's evolution) is HUGE.

  • Scalpeltravel says:

    Respect for you sir, You are a great person with outstanding mind and always carrying the culture with you

  • David Fischer says:

    A great mind like Dr. Ramachandran's shared freely with the public … I am just grateful.

  • Carter Cole says:

    13:30 why leave out #texas?

  • Lenin Babu says:


  • Sumner Stuart says:

    Juliet actually is a flaming ball of fire. schizophrenia is derogatory if someone is exceptionally intelligent.

  • Ziva Kopecka says:

    ganeshan, why not. tamil not hindu today?


    hey hey.. hold on.. this video contains more about tamil arts which is unique and not suppose to be identified as hindu's art…

  • Olivebates says:

    Well yeah. Being a girl I don't find it so strange for it to be.

  • Raj says:

    primary hero is ur husband or boyfriend ? 😛

  • MahaVakyas says:

    Nice to see VS Ramachandran talking about the positive influence of India and the contributions of the greatest civilization on the planet.

  • mozy appa says:

    excellent excellent

  • Gnomefro says:

    "And look what "civilization" has brought us, it's destroying nature. Great contribution by the west! Laughable."

    Give me a break. Technology is not destroying nature. Overpopulation is. Which, amusingly, is an area where India is at the forefront. What technology is actually doing to you right now is ensuring that we don't starve. Had we not have agricultural technology we could not sustain a bigger population than we have 10000 years ago.

  • roceguer007 says:

    YAY! This is the lecture i missed, and its a good thing he is so popular that his lectures end up on youtube.
    Rama, be generous with the FINAL! D:

  • lin dan says:

    he knows about human mind more than any one else

  • Winfred Hawkins says:

    I think his theory has a huge hole…the issue of content. The viewers ability to transport emotion onto an object, any object, and thus have a greater connection with it. Therefore, as long as the artist makes the viewer project their emotion on an artwork that person will have the "ah" moment.

    There are many reasons why a person would do this, and therefore negate many of his theories. Especially when you take into account what may be going on in the world (their life) at the time.

  • fugdus says:

    what a bunch of rubbish. vs should stick to what he knows and not expose his jingoistic ignorance on so many matters beyond his ken.

  • hyperbolaisagraph says:

    @G716M Get into a neurobiology PhD program!

  • Olivebates says:

    ur my secondary hero :0

  • Jesse Chappell says:

    Thank you, Ramachandran, for raising the paradigm bar. You are one of my heroes.

  • evan davies says:

    i like it when he talks about textural contrast.

  • Ajita Kamal says:

    War and slavery are generic. The West became wealthier (not superior in a generic way) than the rest o0f the world because of the influence of colonialism, which for 300 years transferred wealth from Asia, Africa and South America to Europe and the White colonies, allowing the West the right environment for the scientific enlightenment and the industrial revolution, built on cheap labor and free raw materials from the colonies.

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