The next reading group takes place on location: at the Tropenmuseum on Sunday the 15th. During this session, we will visit the exhibition The World Explained with work by Mexican artist Erick Beltrán. The exhibition is curated by reading group member Anke Bangma, curator of contemporary art at the Tropenmuseum, who will kindly show us around.
For his exhibition, Beltrán and a team of young anthropologists interviewed residents of Amsterdam and asked them to offer their own personal theories about a diversity of subjects, such as tickling, taste, energy, the unknown, etc, assembling the results in a contemporary encyclopedia. Beltrán drew his inspiration for his approach from micro-history, a genre in cultural history that focuses on personal stories and apparently minor events. These sketch a picture of a culture or mentality of a particular period. Beltrán is more interested in the everyday ideas of ordinary people than in what specialists know. “Our view of the world is determined not just by what we have learned about the world or even what we have actually experienced,” he explains, “it consists to a large extent of suspicions, makeshift connections and personal interpretations.” He previously carried out the project in Sao Paulo (2008) and Barcelona (2009) and you can see these results in the show as well.
In preparation we will be reading one text by the Portugese neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, whose expertise lies in the neurological study of emotions and how they come about in our brain and bodies. He is especially interested in the relation between emotion and cognition, something that he discusses in the two fragments we are reading from his book The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (Heinemann Publishing, 1999). For Damasio, emotions play a central part in our capacity to think ‘intelligently’ and make logical decisions. He establishes a direct link between affect and knowledge, and his text thus offers various points of similarity with Erick Beltrán’s interests in collecting personal, alternative knowledges.