THE EFFECT OF RELIGIOUS VISUAL ART ON CONTEMPLATIVE BRAIN ACTIVITY

The research is the project of Ph.D in practice researcher Veronika Szendrő at University of Pécs Doctoral School of Art (HUN) in cooperation with Institute of Transdisciplinary Discoveries (HUN) 

Supervisors: Dr. Attila Sik (neurologist, founder of Institute of Transdisciplinary Discoveries at University of Pécs, Hungary), Dr. Péter Lengyel (artist, dean of University of Pécs Art Department, Hungary), Theoretical consultant: Dr. Bálint Veres (esthete, head of Ph.D. in Practice program at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Hungary)




ABSTRACT

We intend to support the hypothesis of humanities scholars (Jung, Eliade, Dumézil) of the universalism and contemplative effect of religious symbols with natural science methodology. Our primary purpose is to understand which non-representative visual features can play a role in creating the contemplative experience. We will use the following method to achieve our goal: We will create experimental artworks with the help of mandalas due to their well-known importance in meditative rituals: using digital analysis software, we will highlight mandalas' common visual features (proportion, color balance, main shapes etc.) and integrate the results into non-representative abstracted experimental artworks. We will project the artworks for the subjects and record their brain waves with a portable EEG device. We will compare the data with previous EEG results measured during Buddhist meditation, confirming the alpha wave increase during contemplation. Based on our findings, we will conclude which visual elements can contribute to the formation of a contemplative brain state. These results can be used by contemporary artists, meditators to improve meditation techniques, and academic scholars to reveal new connections in theoretical questions of contemplative science.




OVERALL AIM

The project aims to utilize mandalas in order to identify visual elements, such as line, shape, color, value, form, space, balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, proportion, and unity (Brommer 2011), which occurs most often in them. The research intends to create experimental artworks highlighting these visual characteristics to measure their effectiveness on brain waves that alter the meditative state of mind. The project's overall purpose is to find visual features that can play a role in contributing to the contemplative experience.

Mobirise

 

HYPOTHESES 


HYPOTHESES OF SCHOLARS 


Some humanities scholars hypothesize that all world religions' depictions contain similar visual elements (Jung, Eliade, Dumézil, etc.) that can play a role in creating contemplation. Mandala art contains these visual patterns, which also appear in the art of the world's leading religions. (Jung, 2019)
Scientists hypothesize that art (including religious imagery) has an adaptive function and can alter brain activity (Sütterlin, Menninghaus, Horváth, etc.). In addition, art historians (such as Elkins) argue that visual art (including religious art) can evoke contemplative feelings. Although there is no unified idea of the brain areas responsible for religious experience, some peer-reviewed publications (Lagopolous, Travis, Kasamatsu) contain information about changes in alpha waves during Buddhist meditation, a type of religious contemplation.

HYPOTHESES OF OUR PROJECT

1. Based on the theories mentioned above, our project hypothesizes that certain non-representative visual elements can play a role in creating contemplation.

2. Religious symbols have survived cultural changes not only because of their meaning but also because of their visual characteristics participating in the creation of contemplation.

3.  Humanities scholars (Jung, Eliade, Dumézil) hypothesis can be supported and confirmed by natural science methodology. 
    

Mobirise

MY SEMESTER AT YALE

I spent a semeter at Yale Divinity School with my research project

my supervisor was Sally M. Promey
Professor of Religion and Visual Culture; Coordinator of the Program in Religion and the Arts; Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies; and Director, Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion Yale University

What I was doing there 

I was researching religious depictions in the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library and extended my knowledge of research methodology.  


REFERENCES

Brommer, G. F. (2011) Elements of Art and Principles of Design. Fort Collins, CO: Crystal ProductionsH
Bühnemann, G. (2017). Modern Maṇḍala Meditation: Some Observations. Contemporary Buddhism, 18(2), 263–276.
Horváth, M. (2014) A művészet eredete. Kultúra, evolúció, kogníció. Budapest: Typotex___ kéne ide angol cikk
Eliade: Patterns of Comparative Religion
Eliade, Mircea. (1959) The Sacred and the Profane. The Nature of Religion. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Jung, C. G. (1981) Archetypes and the collective unconscious. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Jung, C. G. (2019) Mandala. [translated by Tóth Tamás, B.] Budapest: Édesvíz, 2019.
Jung, C.G. [1959] 1972. Mandala Symbolism. Translated by R. F. C. Hull. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Krigolson OE, Williams CC, Norton A, Hassall CD, and Colino FL (2017) Choosing MUSE: Validation of a Low-Cost, Portable EEG System for ERP Research. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 11:109.
Lagopoulos, J. et al. (2009) Increased Theta and Alpha EEG Activity During Nondirective Meditation. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15 (11) 1187-1192
Ratti E, Waninger S, Berka C, Ruffini G and Verma A (2017) Comparison of Medical and Consumer Wireless EEG Systems for Use in Clinical Trials. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 11:398
Ries, J. (2003) A szent antropológiája : a homo religiosus eredete és problémája /'L'Homo religious et son expérience du sacré'/ [translated by Krivácsi, Anikó]. Budapest: Typotex


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