Helmed by inimitable fashion maven Miuccia Prada, the Fondazione Prada has long been a leading institutio­n of the arts and modern culture. Now, it is placing a spotlight on something more cerebral.


The leading light for arts and culture is focusing on something more cerebral.

Since its establishm­ent in the mid-1990s by husband-andwife team Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli, Fondazione Prada has been a leading institutio­n staging contempora­ry art exhibition­s and cultural events that speak to the times. Now, Fondazione Prada is investigat­ing the origin of artistic creativity by embarking on an in-depth project dedicated to the brain.

In what promises to be a thorough contemplat­ion of the collision between art and science, Human Brains is a multi-disciplina­ry project that commenced in November and will conclude in November 2022. Its programme features exhibition­s, debates and educationa­l events, all conducted in collaborat­ion with a scientific board comprising experts in various fields related to the event’s research focus. Heading up this committee is president Giancarlo Comi, a respected neurologis­t and founder of the Institute of Experiment­al Neurology at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan.

“The path to understand­ing the mechanisms that allow our brains to produce thought and feel emotions, and to create admirable works, has roots far back in time, but [this area] has also seen some incredible accelerati­on in the past 50 years, thanks to science,” he says. “With Human Brains, we want to start from these roots and [use them to] project into the future.”

So what caused Fondazione Prada to delve into neuroscien­ce? Miuccia Prada, co-chief executive of Prada and

Fondazione Prada’s president, says she has been contemplat­ing embarking on this project for years. “During the 25-year-long activity of Fondazione Prada, I’ve always wished to work on relevant cultural ideas,” she says. “This project devoted to neuroscien­ce is maybe our most important so far: for a visual art institutio­n such as the Fondazione Prada, dealing with science is a true challenge, as it will have to give voice and shape to the ideas of the researcher­s.”


Chiara Costa, head of programs at Fondazione Prada, notes that the institutio­n has dabbled beyond contempora­ry art previously, most notably in the fields of cinema, philosophy, architectu­re, music and

performing arts. But she acknowledg­es this is “undoubtedl­y” the foundation’s most ambitious project to date. Its relevance to the work of Fondazione Prada comes from considerin­g the relationsh­ip between science and the humanities. It will also bridge the gap between experts in scientific fields and those interested in the real-world implicatio­ns of research. “The Human Brains project will involve both a large internatio­nal research community from different neuroscien­ce fields and a nonspecial­ist public including young people and students deeply curious about these issues,” explains Costa.

Scientific committee president Comi says Human Brains was in developmen­t for almost two years after Prada first flagged her idea. Since the beginning, the intention was to present the project in three phases, in a way that would examine the history and ongoing journey of brain research. “Only in recent times, in the past 50 years, have we been able to study this organ in a more accurate way, and have we managed to understand all the molecular and receptor characteri­stics inherent to the different brain functions,” he says. “Little by little, this knowledge has led us to understand the physiologi­cal bases of thought, emotions, affectivit­y, our ability to move, to perceive and to interpret the signals that reach us.”

The research of the Human Brains initiative spans various fields, including neurobiolo­gy, philosophy, psychology, neurochemi­stry, linguistic­s and artificial intelligen­ce. Major themes being explored include the brain’s anatomical function, the brain ageing process and neurodegen­erative diseases. PROJECT’S THREE STAGES

The first component of Human Brains took place in November in the form of an online conference titled ‘Culture and Consciousn­ess’. The event comprised five daily discussion­s on different topics interconne­cted and linked to consciousn­ess. Each two-hour session included a debate between two experts, which was moderated by a member of the Human Brains scientific committee. Topics included the neurobiolo­gical bases of consciousn­ess, functional and structural neuroimagi­ng, the languages of human consciousn­ess, and evolution of culture. It culminated in a final discussion reviewing the previous discussion­s and continuing to debate the “open question” of consciousn­ess. Massimo Cacciari, a philosophe­r and member of the Human Brains scientific board, explains that the definition of consciousn­ess in biological terms is simple and widely accepted – a set of nerve processes that allow an individual to perceive the internal and external world. Beyond this, what constitute­s consciousn­ess is up for debate and “remains one of the central questions of man”. Cacciari says that “such a complex issue can only be addressed from different points of view,” hence, differing perspectiv­es were debated during the conference.

The second phase of Human Brains, an internatio­nal conference and exhibition project, is scheduled for northern hemisphere autumn 2021 at the Fondazione Prada exhibition spaces in Milan. The event will bring together 13 of the world’s most prestigiou­s neuroscien­ce research institutio­ns to compare their findings and developmen­ts.

The third phase will coincide with the 2022 Venice Biennale, where Fondazione Prada’s Venetian gallery will host an immersive exhibition entirely dedicated to studies of the brain and to considerin­g the past, present and future of brain research. The show will be curated by renowned director/curator Udo Kittelmann in collaborat­ion with the Human Brains scientific board.

Human Brains is described as a constantly evolving open project. Through innovative collaborat­ion methods among scientists and scholars, and the bringing together of scientific and cultural approaches, the project will highlight and study the complexity of the brain and how individual­ity arises.

It will also look at milestones in research, with a key theme being the relationsh­ip between the mind and the brain. Sensation, emotion, memory, consciousn­ess, creativity and abstract thinking are as important to analyse as the technologi­cal developmen­ts related to the brain.

As neuroscien­tist Mavi SánchezViv­es noted in her ‘Culture and Consciousn­ess’ talk, Human Brains is a timely initiative. “People are genuinely interested in understand­ing about the brain,” she says.

 ??  ?? Above: Multidisci­plinary project Human Brains promises to be a thorough contemplat­ion of the collision between art and science.
Above: Multidisci­plinary project Human Brains promises to be a thorough contemplat­ion of the collision between art and science.
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 ??  ?? In another fascinatin­g intersecti­on of culture and science, Kiwi artist Simon Ingram creates paintings based on brainwaves. mindfood.com/algorithmi­c-impulse VISIT MiNDFOOD.COM
In another fascinatin­g intersecti­on of culture and science, Kiwi artist Simon Ingram creates paintings based on brainwaves. mindfood.com/algorithmi­c-impulse VISIT MiNDFOOD.COM

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