Last year I had the privilege of working with philosopher & cognitive scientist Alva Noë to develop an immersive audiowalk through SFMOMA. Our mission, set out by Stephanie Pau, Senior Content Producer @ SFMOMA, was to create a walk through the Museum, grappling with its most "difficult" artworks, and examining what happens to our brains, eyes, imaginations, and most-importantly, self-knowledge, if we allow ourselves to "not get it"? I acted as Alva's ghostwriter/audio coach/director/producer, ingesting his book Strange Tools, walking through galleries with him, discussing our individual responses to the works as we went, and then turned that into a 30 minute journey for others.
Alva Noë is a frequent commentator for NPR, and just posted this column posing further questions about visitor engagement and perception. If you haven't read his book Strange Tools (or taken his audiowalk @ SFMOMA), you should! Lots of provocative ideas to think about.
In my judgment, the turn to neuroscience is an abdication of the museum's real mission, which is not to cause this or that to happen in the brains of unsuspecting visitors, but rather to afford motivated, interested, curious individuals the opportunity to appreciate what is on display. Which is not to say that this is an easy task.