Talking Brains: An Exhibition

On December 2, 2015 by Morteza Yazdani

Picture1Grammar & Cognition Lab members have recently devoted efforts to craft and design the contents of the exhibition Talking Brains, in progress to be displayed in CosmoCaixa, and some other high end venues around the world, starting in 2017. Created in association with, ZFC+, and Tête@Tête, this exhibition takes as a starting point the fact that even though there are 6.000+ human languages on Earth today, there is also in some sense just one human language: a shared property that unites us all, rooted in the anatomy and physiology of our species-specific brain. The exhibition aims to exhibit that brain from the point of view of its linguistic functions: it wants to spell out how the brain creates language, but also how language creates the brain. Unlike many other exhibitions around the world, which present particular languages and their histories, Talking Brains displays a scientific approach to language as a natural object, in which we stress its psychological and biological constitution, as well as its indissoluble link with neuroscience, genetics, anatomy, and human evolution.

Talking Brains sets out visitors on a journey where they learn what it means for the brain to unpack linguistic noise as a meaningful thought in half a second, how our brain became language-ready in infancy, what makes our brain different from other animal brains, or what the disintegration of language means for the disintegration of our mind. The exhibition features installations that blur the boundaries between art and science, including an impressive full dome 3-D video projection on the model of a planetarium where the brain is presented as the most complex object in the universe. And Talking Brains accomplishes all that by emphasizing the creation of experiences through interactivity and technological innovation, in order to provide a fully personalized visit that packages information in ways appropriate for different age and linguistic groups.

Talking Brains is a public outreach initiative by the Grammar & Cognition Lab that aims to bring back to society the knowledge the G&CL has developed thanks to the support of the public funding agencies of our research. To do so, we have created a serious but also accessible product addressed to general and specialized audiences age 10+, including parents of children in the language acquisition stage as well as whole families and school groups from different backgrounds. That commitment of our research to the public sphere is, we think, one of the rationales behind our work, and we hope that it will hopefully become a crucial endeavor of Academia as a whole in coming years.

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