Some Thoughts Connecting Deterministic Chaos, Neuronal Dynamics and Aesthetic Experience


  • Andrea Ackerman


The apparent randomness of deterministic chaos is diferentiated from stochastic randomness and linked to natural processes, time’s irreversibility and the creation of meaning. Current neuroscience research strongly suggests that chaotic dynamics govern the physiological functioning of the brain/mind. The brain/mind is conceived as a multi-attractor system functioning at a far from equilibrium state poised for instantaneous state changes and transitions. Chaotic itinerancy has been suggested as a process by which chaotic transitions among attractors may be made and dynamically integrated in a multi-attractor chaotic system such as the brain. The article outlines a theory suggesting that the general characteristics of aesthetic experience are determined by the chaotic dynamics of the brain/mind and by the dynamics of chaotic itinerancy. Two examples, a novel by W.G. Sebald and the installation art of Jenny Holzer are described in terms of this new aesthetic theory.