Stay at University of Aarhus’s “Embodied Computation Group”

Between September 30 and October 11 (2019) I stayed at University of Aarhus’s research group “The Embodied Computation Group”, which belongs to the Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience/MINDLab.  There I worked under the supervision of the neuroscientist Micah Allen to study the influence of bodily rhythms on cognition.

During my time at Aarhus I had the opportunity to present results of my research to Allen’s research group as well as to fellow researchers of the Center for Music in the Brain and the Interacting Minds Centre. These two weeks were a great opportunity to become familiar with recent techniques and theoretical frameworks that assess the constrains enacted by bodily activity coming from the heart, respiration and digestive oscillations. Allen and his team are one pioneer group in studying and modeling embodied certain aspects of cognition from an empirical perspective.

“Venetian Lectures” by Shaun Gallagher

Between the 3rd and the 5th of September 2019 there were a new edition of the “Venetian Lectures” at Ca’ Foscari’s Aula Baratto. Devised by Luigi Perisinotto, the Venetian Lectures have become a particularly prestigious tradition at Ca’ Foscari. On this occasion, I have had the great honor of organizing the lectures with the support of the European Union’s 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 794484), the Associazione Culturale Pragma, and the Cognition, Language, Action and Sensibility–Venetian Seminar (CLAVeS) of Ca’ Foscari University’s Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage.

The lectures were offered by one of the most renowned philosophers at the intersection between philosophy and cognitive science from an enactive perspective: Shaun Gallagher. This three-day conference was one extremely relevant and productive communicative activity. More than 60 persons attended the lectures. 

The title of the first lesson was “Mindful and mindless performance”, that of the second one “Media, movement and material engagement” and the third and final one was titled “Not one, not two: Acting and art”. The whole content of these lectures, introduced by a text written by me will be published by Mimesis International. 

European Society of Aesthetics 2019 (Warsaw 12/14 June)

I participated in the 2019 edition of the European Society for Aesthetics conference that took place in Warsaw (Poland) between 12 and 14 June 2019. I had the opportunity to disseminate some aspects of the preliminary results of the project, as well as to networking with other relevant researchers on aesthetics.

My talk “Rhythm and aesthetic experience: and enactive approach” was related to two specific objects of the project: the implications of rhythm and entrainment in aesthetics and some initial aspects of the general model of the aesthetic component of experience.

Stay at University of Vienna’s EVAlab: Empirical Visual Aesthetics

For two weeks (27/5/2019-7/6/2019) I stayed at University of Vienna’s research group EVAlab: Empirical Visual Aesthetics research center. This was a part of the secondment of ENAMARE. Prof. Helmut Leder was my supervisor during my stay at EVAlab.

EVAlab was founded in 2004 by Helmut Leder and is recognized as the earliest department with a specific research focus on Visual Empirical Aesthetics. Only recently similar initiatives have emerged elsewhere. Over twelve years, EVAlab was the only research team and network in the field of visual aesthetics, and now holds a role of international leadership in psychological empirical art research with numerous important publications pioneering empirical approaches. Among their more relevant recent results is “The Vienna Integrated Model of top-down and bottom-up processes in Art Perception (VIMAP) and corresponding affective, evaluative, and neurophysiological relates”. 

While staying at the center I had the opportunity to present some recent results from ENAMARE. I also received training in their modeling processes of visual aesthetics from an empirical point of view. I developed a better understanding of the processes considered to be involved in art perception from a neuroscientific and psychologic perspective.

Stay at RITMO: Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time, and Motion

For three weeks I have had the opportunity of doing a stay at University of Oslo’s research group RITMO: Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time, and Motion. This stay was the first part of a series of stays that constituted the secondment of ENAMARE. Prof Alexender Refsum Jensenius, deputy director of the centre, was my supervisor during my time at RITMO

During my time at RITMO, a Norwegian Centre of Excellence focused on rhythm as structuring mechanism for the temporal dimensions of human life, I was part of the dynamics of an extremely interdisciplinary group. It integrates specialists on musicology, psychology, engineering, philosophy and many other fields. I was given, as well, the opportunity to present some preliminary aspects of the project during a so-called “Food & Paper seminar”. The feedback I received after my talk and the meetings that I had in those weeks were invaluable, and fulfilled all and more of the objectives fixed in the project for this stay.

Staying at a Centre such as Rhythm is an opportunity to experience the possibilities of relevant and brave interdisciplinary approaches to complex research topics. It proves the benefits of tackling issues from different, but complementary perspectives, as a means to a better understanding of transversal aspects that influence everyday life at many different levels.

Cuenca’s Jornadas de Filosofía y Arte

I was invited to participate as a keynote speaker at the conference “Esthetics, Mystics, and Hermeneutics”, organized by the UNED International Chair of critical Hermeneutics, which took place in Cuenca (Spain) between 21-24 February 2019. This four day conference was a wonderful opportunity to disseminate some aspects of the preliminary results of the project, as well as a great opportunity for networking in order to establish solid connections with Spanish cultural institutions.

My talk “Rhythm as an aesthetic threshold: an enactivist approach to Bill Viola’s oeuvre”, as well as other interventions in the conference can be found in Youtube.

Freiburg’s 20 Herbstakademie – Synchronization in Embodied Interaction

In this international conference I offered the oral presentation “Bodily rhythms and entrainment on social interaction”.

The abstract of this presentation is the following: Rhythmicity is regarded as a fundamental feature of both brain and bodily functions, and rhythm is increasingly considered as a potential organizer coupling body and cognition. This conditioning is believed to take place not only between brain oscillations (Peter Lakato’s “oscillatory hierarchy hypothesis”), but also between body and brain oscillations (Wolfgang Klimesch’s “binary hierarchy brain body oscillation theory”). Phase-amplitude locking and other mechanisms could play a role in the shared rhythmicity observed in different social interactions (musical improvisation, choir singing, dyadic conversational interactions, problem solving, etc.).

The central idea of the presentation is to defend, from a strongly embodied standpoint, the radical importance of bodily rhythms in social interaction. Bodily rhythms would play a role as sensorimotor coordinators able to entrain perception and action intra and interindividually. By bodily rhythm it is considered a perceivable evolving pattern of oscillations with the ability to entrain other oscillations within and/or between individuals. Bodily rhythms – e.g. respiration, heart rate, gestures – will be considered, thus, from an embodied and enacted point of view combining philosophy and recent research on cognitive sciences; that is, they will be addressed as constituent parts of cognitive processes and as dynamic, time-extended, open interactions between agents and environment. Philosophically, the concept of rhythm is a naturalist approach grounded on John Dewey, for whom “each rhythm, major or minor, interacts with all the others to engage different systems of organic energy”, but also taking into account recent theories  such as Anthony Chemero’s “sensorimotor empathy”. The cognitive aspects will be based on recent literature produced by Ivana Konvalinka, Peter E. Keller, and Viktor Müller, among others.

In conclusion, it is proposed a presentation, based on an original concept of rhythm, defending the importance of bodily rhythms on social interactions for their capacity as sensorimotor coordinators to entrain other oscillations.

European’s Researcher Night

Since 2005 the European Researchers' Night is an initiative promoted by the European Commission during which researchers make the date to meet the general public in different European cities and on the same day at the end of summer, the fourth Friday of September.

On 28 September 2018, in different European cities, citizens have the opportunity to visit research buildings that usually are not open to the public. In my case, I organized two visits at the Ca’ Pesaro museum of modern art. The name of the visit was: “Looking for the modern self: bridging art, philosophy, and neuroscience”. My intention was to establish a dialogue between the evolution of theories exploring the features of perception and action. To this end I presented some particularly relevant artworks at Ca’ Pesaro, which explore aspects addressed as well from philosophical and neuroscientific approaches.

A podcast version of the visits that I organized at Ca’ Pesaro for the Researcher’s night 2018 can be found.