Press release

Wonder: Barbican and Wellcome Trust collaborate on a season to light up the mind

The Barbican and the Wellcome Trust today announce their collaboration on a season for spring 2013 that brings together the arts and neuroscience.

Highlights of ‘Wonder: Art and Science on the Brain’ include: a performance lecture with Marcus du Sautoy; Ruby Wax's personal insights into her journey from the heights of fame to the depths of depression; a film season exploring neuroscience and mental health on the big screen; a theatrical 19th-century Parisian salon debating the big topics of 21st-century thought; and a feast of other events that will invite audiences to think, to explore and to wonder.

The understanding of human thought, emotion, behaviour and expression are common to both neuroscience - the study of the brain and the nervous system - and to many artists working across visual arts, music, theatre, performance and film. 'Wonder' brings together for the first time two cutting-edge organisations from both fields, creating a rich season of events that explores and is inspired by where art and neuroscience collide.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican, said: "The two cultures of art and science are so often perceived as remote from each other - in fact they interact on many levels, and this path-breaking collaboration with the Wellcome Trust will enable us to explore the riches of creativity and perception in a new way. Alongside a major conference on neuroscience, this season presents events, discussions and interactions celebrating the achievements of the human brain, which are a source of wonder for all."

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, said: "Scientists and artists have been examining the brain for centuries from different but often complementary viewpoints. Our exciting new venture with the Barbican will bring these two approaches together, delving into a fascinating, but potentially challenging, area of science and opening it up to the public. It will bring some of the world's leading experts on the brain and mental health into one of the UK's foremost cultural venues and allow the public to engage with the latest thinking on how the brain works, directly and through some very innovative creative partnerships."

The season includes:

2 March 2013, Barbican Hall, 19.30

Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, takes the audience on a journey into consciousness. In an audiovisual performance lecture that combines music, specially conceived visuals, lighting design and discussions. Du Sautoy invites fellow scientists to explain their areas of work and experiments. He goes on the search for 'I' and asks what is going on inside our brains that makes us who we are. The evening is divided into five chapters that cover different areas of consciousness, from animals to artificial intelligence.

Du Sautoy and his guests 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? Can you have multiple consciousnesses? How much of my brain can I remove before I would lose my sense of I? Is my cat conscious? Can a machine ever be conscious or be deemed intelligent?

James Holden, a British electronic music artist and DJ who studied mathematics at Oxford University, performs a specially commissioned soundtrack for the evening. He uses neuroscientific concepts and principles to engender a higher state of consciousness in the audience. The visuals for the evening are created by Soho-based studio One Of Us, who draw on the Wellcome Trust's archive footage and the scientists' own material to complete this unique synthesis of scientific concepts, music and visuals.

Ruby Wax
8 April 2013, Barbican Hall, 19.30

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? From celebrity interviews and 'Absolutely Fabulous' to the Royal Shakespeare Company and stand-up comedy, Ruby has led a life of success and fame. She has also experienced depression and debilitating mental illness, a subject she treats darkly with humour through her shows 'Losing It' and 'Out of Her Mind'. 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.

The Salon Project
4-14 April 2013, The Pit, timed entry 18.00, 18.30, 19.00

Untitled Projects presents 'The Salon Project', in which the world of a 19th-century Parisian salon is re-created in the Pit Theatre. The evening begins in the Barbican's dressing rooms, where each audience member is fitted with a bespoke period costume. Once inside the Salon, guests mingle with pioneers from the spheres of neuroscience, politics, technology and the arts, who will provoke debate on subjects at the vanguard of 21st-century thought. Each evening, one of the speakers will be an expert or have a special interest in neuroscience.

Wonder on Film
Barbican Cinema | Full listings details to be announced

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; it considers how film has questioned our definitions of mental health and normality; and it 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 to celebrate and promote the subjective visions of people with psychosis, and film's potential for communicating and expressing their inner states.

Packed Lunch talks
Barbican Centre, full listings to be announced

Fresh from Wellcome Collection, the ever-popular discussion series makes a journey to the Barbican for more lunchtime wonder, with neuroscientists in conversation about life in the city. From decision making to body clocks, how does working in the city affect your brain...or is it the other way round?

Barbican Weekender: Brain Waves
2-3 March 2013, Barbican Centre

An array of creative events for all, journeying into the Barbican’s grey matter with two days of dance, theatre, music, art and science. This is also the last chance for visitors to experience the hugely popular Rain Room by Random International. Embracing art, design and science, art collective Random International investigates how we think and behave in different environments, how we respond to the work and to each other within it.

Festival of Neuroscience and Wonder: Street Fair
7-9 April 2013, Barbican Centre

The catalyst for the 'Wonder' season, the British Neuroscience Association's Festival of Neuroscience will be a unique event, bringing together over a thousand of the best brains in neuroscience and mental health research from around the world to discuss the hottest topics in their fields. From 7 to 9 April, the Barbican Foyers will spring to life with the 'Wonder: Street Fair', a major public engagement programme of hands-on activity, performance, interaction and demonstrations. Members of the public will be able to meet and interact with neuroscientists, artists, performers and those at the forefront of brain research.

Brain Awareness Week
11-17 March 2013

Throughout Brain Awareness Week, Wellcome Trust researchers across the UK will be taking their science to the public. From a 'Carnival of Lost Emotions' in London to ‘Olympic Brains’ in Wales, 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 events.

Barbican Box

In 2013, Complicite will be the Artistic Partners of Barbican Box, an annual initiative which ignites and supports devised theatre making in schools and youth groups. Once a year, Barbican/Guildhall Creative Learning commission a theatre artist or company to design the Barbican Box - literally a portable box containing a range of stimuli, ideas and provocations designed to encourage an imaginative approach to theatre making. Each year the box is different, and aims to be both a work of art and an education tool. This year Complicite has designed the box: 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 which 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.