MIT Media Lab and MIT Museum – Ramón y Cajal

I have only recently heard about the MIT Media Lab although it is as old as me. The Media Lab was born in 1985 to “combine a vision of a digital future with a new style of creative invention”. It started to set up what was seen as radical for that time: “open computer gardens, personal computing on every desk and a multimedia network to every room”. Since then it has created numerous disruptive technologies in different fields, from electronics to entertainment, fashion to healthcare, etc. by promoting a collaborative and an interdisciplinary culture inside the research community.

Some examples that are dear to me include: the Communitive Biotechnology initiative, which includes the development of low-cost enabling hardware and experiments in the interface of art and biology; and the Open Ocean initiative in which researchers work at the intersection of science, technology, society, and art to set up new ways to understand the ocean and empower people to explore and make better changes.

The Media Lab has not only a broad research agenda but also a degree-granting Program in Media Arts and Sciences. The website is amazing and it is an incredible source of news, from videos to talks, projects to summits and much moreIt was there that I learned about the MIT Museum and its current exhibition “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal”.

From the exhibition “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal” at the MIT Museum. “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal” was developed by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota with the CSIC’s Cajal Institute, Madrid, Spain.

The exhibition presents the drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience and also an extraordinary artist. As the museum nicely illustrates: “his drawings of the brain were not only beautiful but also astounding in their capacity to illustrate and understand the details of brain structure and function.” Learn more about the exhibition on the museum’s website and if you have the opportunity (I don’t!) please go visit the exhibition until the 31st of December 2018. 

Ramon y Cajal was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1906 and, in spite of time, his work continues to captivate and stimulate modern neuroscientists and artists. One particular artwork that I love (already from 2010) was made by the neuroscientist Pablo Garcia Lopez, who was inspired by Ramón y Cajal’s beautiful metaphors:

“Like the entomologist in search of colorful butterflies, my attention has chased in the gardens of the grey matter cells with delicate and elegant shapes, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, whose beating of wings one day reveal to us the secrets of the mind.” (Ramón y Cajal, 1901).”

Mixed Media Artwork by Pablo Garcia Lopez. For more work from this artist visit his website: https://www.pablogarcialopez.com

Inspired by this quote, Pablo Garcia Lopez created this amazing mixed media artwork by playing with neuroscience, that he so well knows, and mixing the image of a brain positron emission tomography (PET) scan with the colorful butterflies that Ramón y Cajal was talking.

For more work from this sci-artist visit his website: https://www.pablogarcialopez.com