Press release

Barbican and Wellcome Trust announce full programme for ‘Wonder’

Ruby Wax talking about her battle with depression and the research that it has inspired, mathematician Marcus du Sautoy and DJ James Holden exploring consciousness through an audiovisual spectacular, and a brain-inspired flash mob dance: these are just some of the highlights in a packed programme of events that put the growing relationship between the arts and neuroscience under the microscope.

The Barbican and the Wellcome Trust, two leading organisations in the worlds of art and science, today announce the full programme for 'Wonder: Art and Science on the Brain', which will see the public, artists and neuroscientists rub shoulders - and minds - to explore the inner workings of the brain, our most complex organ.

The season has been inspired by the British Neuroscience Association's Festival of Neuroscience, a scientific conference of some of the greatest minds in brain research from across the globe that is to be held at the Barbican in April. The Wonder season will feature films, music, theatre, talks and participation, and a wealth of hands-on experiments for all ages.

Visitors can explore the relationships between the city and their brains, find out how urban living drives impulsive behaviour and see what impact our 24/7 culture has on our sleep patterns. Neuroscientists will compete against each other to win over the hearts and minds of the public in a special live version of 'I'm a Neuroscientist, Get Me Out of Here'.

Illusions, experiments, arts, theatre and game play will dominate the Barbican foyers at both the Barbican Weekender and Wonder: Street Fair, and a special brain-themed flash mob will explore the role of dance in mood and emotion.

A season of neuroscience on film will include a special screening of 1958 B-movie cult favourite 'Fiend Without a Face' alongside classics such as 'The Manchurian Candidate' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', plus the Turner Prize-nominated portrait of RD Laing, 'All Divided Selves'.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican, said: "The relationship between art and science is nearly as complex and intricate as the brain itself. This season provides a fantastic opportunity to explore the brain and how it relates to the many strands of human creativity. Through a fascinating selection of events, talks and activities, there will be plenty to wonder at."

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, said: "As humans, we have an enduring fascination with the brain and how it makes us 'us', individual and unique. How much can we learn about its inner workings from art and science?

"Having so many great neuroscientists at one of the UK's best-loved cultural venues is an opportunity not to be missed: we are delighted to be supporting such a strong programme of events that will allow artists, scientists and the public to learn from each other as we explore the brain."

The full programme of events and information on how to buy tickets can be found on the Barbican website.

Barbican Weekender: Brain Waves
2-3 March 2013 (Barbican Centre)
An array of free creative events for all, journeying into the Barbican's grey matter with two brainy days of dance, theatre, music and art. Highlights include: the big Brain Flash - a brain-inspired flash mob led by Dr Peter Lovatt, where members of the public will learn a short dance routine to become part of a human brain wave on the Barbican foyers; Chris Green and friends in the Singing Hypnotist's Tent, housing a programme of hypnotic and mesmeric acts to put you into a trance; and Guerrilla Science engaging children and adults alike with a range of interactive events and experiments, from a Sonic Tour of the Brain to Jelly Brain Dissection workshops - where participants will have the opportunity to dissect a brain and then eat it!

2 March 2013, 19.30 (Barbican Hall)
Join Marcus du Sautoy, BBC presenter and Professor of Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, as he takes you on a journey into consciousness, in a performance lecture that combines music, specially conceived visuals, lighting design and interactive experiences.

The evening is divided into five chapters that cover different areas of consciousness from animals to artificial intelligence. du Sautoy and guests - including Professor Vincent Walsh, Professor Vasudevi Reddy and Dr Mark Lythgoe - explain how we can see inside the workings of the brain and ask questions such as 'What happens as our brain performs different tasks?', 'When do we become conscious?', 'How much of my brain can I remove before I would lose my sense of I?', 'Is my cat conscious?', and 'Can a machine ever be conscious or be deemed intelligent?'

Just voted into the Top 100 DJs of 2012 on Resident Advisor, James Holden is a British electronic music artist and DJ who studied mathematics at Oxford University. He performs his soundtrack for the evening, which is informed by scientific discoveries about how the brain responds to audible stimuli. The music - performed by himself and a cast of musicians including saxophonist Etienne Jaumet and tabla player Camilo Tirado, and enhanced by the treatments of sound designer James Bulley - is intended to summon a higher state of consciousness in the audience.

Tickets £15-£20

The Salon Project
4-14 April 2013, timed entry 18.00, 18.30 and 19.00 (The Pit)
Your evening begins in the Barbican dressing rooms, where you will be costumed in full period evening dress before emerging into a mirrored impression of a 19th-century Parisian salon. As you mingle with guests, pioneers in their fields will provoke discussion, speaking on subjects at the vanguard of 21st-century thought: neuroscience, politics, technology and the arts.

The Salon Project, part of this year’s Spill Festival of Performance, recreates the exclusive meetings at the heart of what was French society‘s golden age - an era of change, excess and inquiry. Relive its splendour, contrast it with the present, and imagine what the future will hold in this beautifully crafted night of fashion and conversation.

Tickets £35

Festival of Neuroscience
7-10 April 2013 (Barbican Centre)
The catalyst for the 'Wonder' season, the British Neuroscience Association's Festival of Neuroscience is a conference that will bring together more than 1500 brain researchers from around the world to discuss the hottest topics in their fields, from cognition to development to nervous system disorders.

Wonder: Street Fair
Sunday 7 April, 12.00-18.00; Monday 8 April, 12.00-19.30; Tuesday 9 April, 12.00-19.30 (Barbican Foyer)
The Barbican Foyer springs to life with free drop-in activities, performance, interaction and demonstrations. From cave painting to motion sensors and from eye-trackers to body illusions, come along and knit a neuron, test your reactions and pit your wits against brain scientists. With more than 20 different activities to stimulate, inspire and amuse your little grey cells.

Ruby Wax
8 April 2013, 19.30 (Barbican Hall)
Join comedian, actress and converted neuroscientist Ruby Wax for a journey from the heights of fame to the depths of mental illness and back again. How has understanding her brain shaped Ruby's career, depression and life itself? As she has learned to handle her mental illness, and with a growing number of degrees in brain sciences under her belt, Ruby's perception and understanding of her condition offers a fascinating insight into the way our mind and spirit works. But how much does understanding her own brain change this perception and what's actually going on in there? This is her tale.

Tickets £8-£10

Packed Lunch talks
Supercharge your lunch hour and feed your curiosity at Packed Lunch. Join scientists in conversation about their latest experiment, life in the lab and why science matters to everyone, all in the space of your lunch hour. This April, Packed Lunch travels from its regular home at Wellcome Collection to the Barbican with a special series of events exploring neuroscience and the city. Find out about the effect of modern office work on our circadian rhythms, how our brains navigate the urban environment and how city life affects our minds.

  • Navigating the City - Hugo Spiers, UCL, Monday 8 April, 13.00-13.45 (Conservatory)
  • Body Clocks - Katharina Wulff, University of Oxford, Tuesday 9 April, 13.00-13.45 (Conservatory)
  • Impulsivity - Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Imperial College London, Wednesday 10 April, 13.00-13.45 (Conservatory)

Tickets are free but must be booked in advance.

I'm a Neuroscientist, Get Me Out of Here!
9 April 2013, 19.30 (Cinema 1)
Are male and female brains different? Is the brain more like a sponge or a computer? Do we really only use 10 per cent of our brain? Join comedian, songstress and presenter Helen Arney as she puts brain scientists on the spot with your questions and they compete on stage for your vote to win 'I'm a Neuroscientist, Get Me Out of Here!' - live.

Tickets £5. See the website for details of participating neuroscientists and to book tickets.

Wonder on Film
Barbican Cinema
Film throughout the decades has delved into the subject of neuroscience, from exploring our understanding of memory to conditions such as schizophrenia. The film season examines the human mind on the big screen through mainstream and art-house films, features and shorts. It explores current debates in the field and features Q&As from expert guest speakers, considers how film has questioned our definitions of mental health and normality, and looks at how people with neurological and psychiatric conditions have been represented on screen. As part of the film season, the Wellcome Trust, the Barbican and the Institute of Inner Vision bring together film theorists, film-makers, psychiatrists and neuroscientists for an afternoon of talks in 'Cinema and Psychosis', an event to celebrate and promote the subjective visions of people with psychosis and film's potential for communicating and expressing their inner states.

  • Saturday 2 March, 15.00 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (15) + Intro: The Neuroethics of Enhancing or Erasing Memories
  • Sunday 3 March, 15.00 - Mission to Lars (12A) + Intro: Living with Fragile X Syndrome
  • Sunday 10 March, 14.00 - A Woman Under the Influence (15)
  • Sunday 10 March, 16.30 - Silent Film and Live Music series: A Page of Madness + live accompaniment by In The Nursery
  • Saturday 16 March, 14.00 - Clean, Shaven (18*) Saturday 16 March, 16.00 - Persona (15) + Mental Health at the Movies Q&A
  • Sunday 17 Mar, 14.00-16.00 Cinema and Psychosis Event
  • Sunday 7 April, 18.00 - Sunday Special Screening: Fiend Without a Face (PG*)
  • Monday 8 April, 18.00 - All Divided Selves (15*) 
  • Monday 8 April, 20.00 - The Manchurian Candidate (12A) + Intro: Brainwashing - fact or fiction?
  • Tuesday 9 April, 18.00 - Mary and Max (12A)
  • Tuesday 9 April, 20.00 The English Surgeon (12A) + ScreenTalk with Henry Marsh
  • Wednesday 10 April, 20.00 - Titicut Follies (15*)

Barbican Box
In 2013, Complicite will be the artistic partners of Barbican Box - literally a portable box containing a range of stimuli, ideas and provocations designed to encourage an imaginative approach to theatre making. This year it will take the shape of a battered old suitcase belonging to a mystery neuroscientist. Inside each case, students will discover fragments of this person's life, clues they will have to piece together as they build their own work around the traces their mystery figure has left behind. The Wellcome Trust, Barbican/Guildhall Creative Learning and Complicite have worked in partnership to create the contents of the box, which will work with 500 young people from schools and youth groups across Tower Hamlets, Islington and Hackney.

Walking Tour: The Grey Soul of London
Sunday 7 April, 14.30
Monday 8 April, 14.30
Robert Kingham leads a walk around Finsbury, the lesser-known London district to the north-west of the Barbican. The writer Arthur Machen (1863-1947) called it "a district both devious and obscure" and promised that the explorer would find "wonder, mystery, awe, the sense of a new world and an undiscovered realm". What kept drawing Machen back to this place? Robert explores how the history of an area can imprint itself on the psychology of one person and what this tells us about our subconscious relationship with our urban environment.

Walk programme in partnership with Museum of London. Book online at the Museum of London website or call 020 7001 9844.

Brain Awareness Week
11-17 March 2013
Throughout Brain Awareness Week, Wellcome Trust scientists and historians across the UK will be taking their research to the public. From a 'Carnival of Lost Emotions' in London to 'Brain Games' in Cardiff, people of all ages will be able to explore different facets of neuroscience, mental health and biomedical ethics in a series of entertaining and stimulating activities.