[SydPhil] talk this Friday 12.15 at Macquarie: Zanker, What We See in Paintings: exercises in experimental aesthetics

John Sutton john.sutton at mq.edu.au
Wed May 1 08:55:42 AEST 2013

All welcome. Venue: Cognitive Science, Level 3, new Australian Hearing Hub
What We See In Paintings: Exercises in Experimental Aesthetics

Speaker : *Johannes M. Zanker*, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway,
University of London.
Date : 3rd of May 2013, 12:15PM until 1:30PM
Location : Australian Hearing Hub, 3.610, Macquarie University.

Ever since Gustav Fechner's seminal work to study the physical processes
underlying mental phenomena (Elemente der Psychophysik, 1860), the
understanding of aesthetic experiences in a scientific framework is
regarded as a critical case - and challenge - for the scope an explanatory
power of such an approach. In my presentation I will report two aspects of
bridging the boundaries between science and arts in this tradition of
exploring the foundations of human perception. Firstly, I will review a
body of psychophysical and oculomotor experiments, combined with
computational modelling, to understand the motion illusions perceived in Op
Art paintings, such as Bridget Riley's 'Fall'. Computer generated versions
of such simple Black-and-White patterns, called 'riloids', are used to
investigate systematically the conditions under which such illusions are
observed. Measuring the eye movements made by human observers while
watching the same kind of stimuli identifies small involuntary
micro-saccades as essential drivers to perceive such illusory motion. A
computational model of motion perception can join these two types of
observations together into a full explanation of how the motion illusion is
generated by riloids, offering a clear rationale to explain the basic
mechanisms underlying many of such illusions in their most fundamental
configurations, and opening the debate as to whether they can account for
other motion illusions experienced in more intricate patterns, such as
Leviant's 'Enigma' or Kitaoka's 'Rotating Snake'. Secondly, I will report a
recent line of research that attempts to measure aesthetic judgements
objectively and quantitatively, which is based in Evolutionary Algorithms
(EA) of the type applied to complex design optimization problems in
engineering. Most importantly, this well established method is combined in
Gaze Driven EA (GDEA) with the analysis of eye movements made by
participant exploring the visual aspects of different designs, which is
then used as 'evolutionary driver' to identify individual preferences. The
validity of this method is demonstrated by testing simple artistic
composition rules, such as the Golden Section or Colour-Shape associations,
and tested in a variety of 'artwork', including the design of commercial
packaging. In our current work we are investigating whether the composition
of Mondrian paintings can be captured and evaluated with GDEA.
Professor John Sutton
Deputy & Acting Head, Department of Cognitive Science
Macquarie University, Sydney,
NSW 2109, Australia
Phone: +61 (0)2 9850 4132
Email: john.sutton at mq.edu.au
URL: http://www.johnsutton.net/
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