A&O 2023 meeting 11 – April 11





notes for meeting 11

TUESDAY April 11, 2023

including likely agenda & comments from previous meeting





WHEN I posted this last week I was thinking of how we contribute to each other in this class.  Our uniquenesses bound together in a more-or-less shared understanding of the canonical content. 


We clasp the hands of those that go before us,

And the hands of those who come after us.

We enter the little circle of each other’s arms

And the larger circle of lovers,

Whose hands are joined in a dance

And the larger circle of all creatures

Passing in and out of life

Who move also in a dance

To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it

Except in fragments.                                                                                                                                      


(Wendell Berry)




LAST WEEK (April 4, meeting 10

    • After a skim of the  CORE CONTENT at the week’s website we had three great presentations, thoughtful, heartfelt…  but first I thought it important to emphasize some of that material: 
      • EXPRESSION.  Everyone, always – when you are pursuing EXPRESSIVE ART:  make connections- and sometimes that requires you to “create the taste by which your presentation is to be relished”  (that is, “contextualize it”)   and
      • REALITY.  emphasize  
        • (1) The collection of topics that bear most directly on REALITY: that is, make efforts to compare environmentally sourced stimuli with entopic experiences AND cultivate a sense of how these are recruited and guided by processes akin to  PAREIDOLIA  and SYNESTHESIA  as they evoke HALLUCINATIONS.  and
        • (2) MEMORY
      • SO now READ a report on HALLUCINATIONS  AND an excerpt from Oliver Sacks on the-nature-of-memory (from-“the-river-of-consciousness”)/ (Connections with DREAMS noted in a paragraph below)
    • REINFORCE your scaffold with BEAUTY and POETIC LICENSE, always mindful of PERSONAL CONNECTIONS 


IDEAS/QUESTIONS THAT STOOD OUT FOR ME centered on a little more respect for DOODLING.   The topic of doodles came up a couple of weeks earlier.  We all need a little more support from that non-linguistic form of easy expression.  I recall commenting it was my habit most of my life, and in particular during classes or seminars attended since grammar school. Most recently in my department’s weekly seminar meetings.  I’ve always saved my notebooks & many of these survive … I have posted a link to couple of personal favorites in the NEXUS near the bottom of our A&O page of notes on doodling.  




Camping out with a friend; An African nature reserve; iridescent dragonflies; a specific sunset; watching a bird fly.  These were your personal experiences, identified as particularly meaningfully beautiful–personal landmarks: Their memorable beauty derived from their unique contexts — what an amazing diversity! We might agree in general about an attractive scene or experience, but as one’s most memorable?   Diverse, but as “beautiful,” was there some quality that they all had in common

SO NOW, BEFORE we delve more deeply into BEAUTY, let’s consider that:   READ the A&O website on the attributes of beauty.  Then consider the famous aphorism, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” [look at the summary of a study that limited its target to human faces: “Why beauty is in the eye of the beholder.“]  

REVIEW OUR website notes about BEAUTY and POETIC LICENSE, consider that the “meaning” of a work of art is we assembled “ from multiple aesthetic (sensory) inputs.  Considering the DEEP ETHOLOGY, an experience of beauty has a cause and consequence that is best understood through consideration of its context [ECOLOGY], preceding experiences that contribute [DEVELOPMENT], depend upon inherited traits and my contribute to traits of descendants [EVOLUTION] and are manifest by virtue of the integrative actions of our brains and metabolic variables [PHYSIOLOGY]   

BUT at another level of organization, multiple variables also converge to create a more-or-less holistic perception. For example, in vision alone, various variables (including spatial variations in the field perceived or the temporal variations of what elements are focused on in a specific order that might be different for different people:  look at  TRACKING the GAZE”  (enlarge your insight at website of EYES)


  • A FRAGMENT ABOUT EYES: PERCEPTION leads to a feeling of knowing: that seems simple enough. If by chance you damaged your occipital cortex (primary visual receiving area), you would report yourself blind. Your retina is still fine and functioning but the only information takes the part of optic tracks that project to areas that are responsible for automatic and reflexive responses.  If a flash of light or an obstacle appeared in your visual field, your “blind” self would nevertheless get out of the way. 
  • (more about the feeling of knowing– a kind of metacognition: https://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-assets/24469_book_item_24469.pdf)



WE can learn much from the paleopsychology of a term, its etymology and from its applications in other cultures.  For example, look at beauty in the context of a French expression, JOLIE LAIDE: 

Unconventionally beautifully; pretty-ugly. A gorgeously unattractive loanword from France to describe something ineffable, usually in a woman, a quality that defies the straitjacket of supposedly ideal beauty.

Not the pejorative “pretty ugly” woman, but a pretty-ugly one possessing a “fascinating quirkiness implying charisma, a face you want to keep looking at, even if you can’t decide whether it’s beautiful or not.” The writer J. J. Vadé’s lovely line, “Nobody’s sweetheart is ugly,” is a subtle suggestion of what jolie laide alludes to. The sultry actress Ellen Barkin comes to mind, with a face like a Lucien Freud portrait, soulful, disturbing, and bafflingly human.

In November 2005 Daphne Merkin wrote in the New York Times, “Leave it to [the French] to introduce a concept of feminine beauty so pure in its abstraction as to defy all logic. I am referring to the term jolie laide, which translates literally into the clunking phrase ‘pretty-ugly,’ but which connotes something more lyrical, even transcendent … jolie laide aims to jog us out of our reflexive habits of looking and assessing by embracing the aesthetic pleasures of the visually off kilter: a bump on the nose, eyes that are set too closely together, a jagged smear of a mouth.” E. M. Forster provides us with a dazzling distinction: “Beauty ought to look a little surprised: it is the emotion that best suits her face. The beauty who does not look surprised, who accepts her position as her due—she reminds us too much of a prima donna.”  (from Phil Cousineau’s The Painted Word (pp. 192-193).


DREAMS These evoke a diversity of important connections & questions. The diagram displayed in the website on POETIC LICENSE in particular makes the important point that areas and activities in the brain may be pleiotropic–have multiple (sometimes contrary) expressions that influence experience and behavior, downstream.  The idea that as we wake, random isolated cortical sparks of activity are woven into the best narrative we can create says much about that entire domain of cognition.

  • Where is the boundary between dream experience and waking experience? apparently we can dream while awake? act awake during sleep?  (revealed by the occasionally anomalous or dysfunctional effects of sleep-aids such as zolpidem (=Ambien))
  • The idea that dreams are “assembled” from more-or-less random brain activity (especially in cortex) (cells are always active but do not always cross the threshold into an actual action) 
  • The idea that “random” brain activity generates percepts that interpreted much like a Rorschach image BUT WHICH ARE THEN assembled into a coherent (albeit often weird) narrative.  [go deeper: read Story Telling is Intrinsically Mentalistic 2018)]  and consider more-or-less of a pareidoliac perception. [more on Pareidolia]
  • Diverse interpretations of data on dreams and their proximate causation and interpretation: READ “Dreaming and the brain: from phenomenology to neurophysiology” by Yuval Nir and Giulio Tononi  (nice collection of dreaming/consciousness literature by Tonini)

    Our life is twofold: Sleep hath its own world, / A boundary between the things misnamed / Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world, /   And a wide realm of wild reality, / And dreams in their developement have breath, /  And tears, and tortures, and the touch of Joy; … What are they? / Creations of the mind? – The mind can make / Substance, and people planets of its own / With beings brighter than have been, and give / A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.  [A&O excerpt from George Gordon, Lord Byron 1816 including notes]  


The neurocognitive processes involved in “experience” of all kinds overlap so much that the idea that all perception and conceptions are more-or-less “true” hallucinations has gotten traction in some circles.. 

DO YOU HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE VALIDITY OF YOUR PERCEPTIONS? ARTISTS hack our cognition –by intuition or systematic (scientific?) study learn how to communicate with their audience.   Read about “SENSORY EXPLOITATION




THINGS TO DO:  READ and THINK ABOUT BEFORE MEETING 11  (be prepared to comment on this during check-in or discussion):   





CONNECTIONS (it should be clear now that there are connections within and between levels of organization):

here are e-mails to provide another way of connecting with each other


Anthony Huang thuang6@vols.utk.edu art-printmaking  
Brittany Okweye bokweye@vols.utk.edu biol  
Brooke N Stillson bstillso@vols.utk.edu biol  
Delaney Reilly dreilly2@vols.utk.edu biol  
Eliza Frensley efrensle@vols.utk.edu art-printmaking  
Emily Paige Brock ebrock10@vols.utk.edu biol  
Gino Castellanos gcastell@vols.utk.edu grad-art-printmaking  
Grace Cochran gcochra6@vols.utk.edu biol  
Haleigh Ann Eicher heicher@vols.utk.edu art-ceramics  
Hayley J Eliz Simpson hayjsimp@vols.utk.edu college scholar  
Hannah Langer hlanger@vols.utk.edu art-ceramics   
Hayden Morris cmk468@vols.utk.edu    
Kaitlyn Anderson kande113@vols.utk.edu    
Keller Alexander walexan9@vols.utk.edu biol  
Kyle Michael Cottier kcottier@vols.utk.edu sculpture  
Sophie Greenwell sgreenw4@utk.edu undecided  
Zoie Lambert tlambe12@vols.utk.edu biol