IVORY Screenshot 3D model 3 COLOURS jane head skull brain FRONT

Neuro memento mori: a portrait of the artist contemplating death

This project lead by Jane Prophet is inspired by an object in the Wellcome Trust Collection. The response to this vanitas object is a collaboration between the visual artist, Jane Prophet and neuroscientists Zoran Josipovic (NYU), Andreas Roepstorrf and Joshua Skewes (Aarhus University). Jane is the subject of a trial where she looks at representations of memento mori and vanitas paintings and objects while being MRI scanned to monitor the functions of her brain.

Following Zoran Josipovic’s instructions, she has learnt to meditate, specifically to contemplate death. She has repeated the meditation exercises in an fMRI scanner. Accumulated fMRI brain images are being processed, producing 3D data of the artist’s brain. Sculptural objects made from this data show the brain in general and highlight the active areas identified during the meditation exercises. The collaborative process also forms the basis for co-authored papers.

The questions that underpin this project are:

Can contemporary neuroscience and new imaging technologies increase our understanding of consciousness?
When we look at memento mori artworks are we prompted to contemplate our own mortality? What parts of the brain are active when we look at these artworks?
What parts of the brain are active when we meditate on death?
Is there any similarity in brain function in these two instances?

Outputs include sculptural objects and educational material based on the structure and function of the brain.