Science of Mind and Art – creative dialogue between disciplines

On 1-2 November 2017, the Art, Mind & Experience symposium took place at the University of Jyväskylä. The event marks a significant signpost on JYU’s road of profiling itself as a multidisciplinary research hub, combining experimental psychological approaches with art research.

The symposium was organized by the Science of Mind and Art (SMA) network, which was launched in the summer of 2016. The network includes researchers from the Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies, from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Research, from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, and from the subject of Cognitive Science. The network’s central goal is to promote creative dialogue between the different disciplines, but also within them.

– Our concrete goals are primarily about strengthening international collaboration in research. There has already been talk of new research projects, and we also want the symposium to become a recurring event, says Suvi Saarikallio, one of the organisers.

Peltola_Toiviainen.jpgHenna-Riikka Peltola and Petri Toiviainen performed at the Art, Mind and Experience symposium.

Shared enthusiasm

The SMA network was sparked by spontaneous inspiration. Another strong influencer was Saarikallio’s Tunnetta Taiteesta (Emotion from Art) project, which compares the pleasure that people experience through music and images. The project is funded by Koneen säätiö.

– It was the dialogue between Johanna Maksimainen and I that sparked this project: I represent Music Psychology, whereas Johanna’s background is in Cognitive Science and visual research. During the project, we noticed that there is a lot of psychologically driven research on both music and visuality, but these research traditions do not interact, Saarikallio says.

Both Saarikallio and Maksimainen were surprised by the pioneering nature of the Emotion from Art project in bringing together music and art studies.

– One time on coffee break, Johanna and I noted that this collaboration has been so fruitful for us that we should encourage others to follow. We told a few colleagues at the University of Jyväskylä about our idea, and their enthusiasm was amazing. Tiina Parviainen and Jan Wikgren from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Research have been key partners in developing the network, Saarikallio says.

International expertise

Seven top researchers from various countries and disciplines presented as the main speakers at the Art, Mind & Experience symposium. Among them was Finland’s 2016 Professor of the Year, developer of embodied learning theory Eeva Anttila from the Theatre Academy, and one of the world’s leading emotion researchers, Assistant Professor Didier Grandjean from the University of Geneva.

– In the span of one year, we went from having just an idea to having this symposium featuring top researchers, and we hope that our enthusiasm will carry our work to even wider audiences, Saarikallio rejoices.

Raymond MacDonald.jpg
The topic of Professor Raymond MacDonald’s keynote speech was “Are you experienced? Arts and minds and the universality of improvisation.” The speech included an improvised saxophone performance.

Text and images: Sari Laapotti. Translation from Finnish to English: Katri Mustonen.