I have a new print in my office. It’s called ‘Small Science Fiction Self-Portrait’ and is by Maria Lassnig (1919-2014) [see: http://www.painters-table.com/link/contemporary-art-daily/maria-lassnig]. I am disappointed to admit that I had never heard of her until I went to a special exhibition at the Tate Liverpool a few weeks ago, which featured her work and that of Francis Bacon. I was expecting the works by Bacon to be the main attraction but instead I thought Lassnig ‘stole the show’. Nearly all of her paintings in the exhibition were self-portraits in which she attempts to represent on canvas her ‘body sensation’ or ‘body awareness’. This seems to echo the synaesthesia pursued by Georgia O’Keeffe when she represented her feelings from various senses in her paintings [see my post entitled ‘Engineering Synaesthesia‘ on September 21st, 2016]. Two of Lassnig’s paintings resonanted with me: one, which was on the front of the programme, called Lady with Brain was painted in 1991 and shows the head of a lady with a proportion of her brain outside of her skull – not in a damaged way but as if it had grown there. This reminded me of the ideas on our increasing use of out-of-skull memory and processing power in our mobile devices that I wrote about under the heading ‘Thinking out of Skull’ [see my post of that title on March 18th, 2015]. The second is the print in my office, painted in 1995, that shows the artist wearing a virtual reality headset that looks almost identical to those we use in our Virtual Engineering Centre. I was amazed by Lassnig’s vision.
For many students this is examination season and the temptation to study twenty-four hours a day is high. However, recently reported research has implied that an extra three to four hours of sleep over as little as two days can restore memories. This implies that a good strategy for exam preparation is to reduce revision in the 48 hours before an exam and sleep instead.
Researchers report that sleep helps the brain to reinforce connections between brain cells, which encode important memories, and to remove connections associated with useless information. Of course from an exam preparation perspective, this does imply that you need to have been studying during the course and hence have memories to reinforce. If you haven’t then stop reading this blog and carry on revising – if necessary, all night!
For the older folks amongst my readers who sometimes feel they are suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, having an early night or a late morning lie-in might really restore memories.
The Hindu, Saturday 25th April, 2015, page 12