Talking Brains – Cosmocaixa, Barcelona

Talking brains at Cosmocaixa in Barcelona is the exhibition that I enjoyed the most over the past six months. I visited it in an extremely quiet moment, at about 2 pm on a Wednesday without what I believe must be the regular nightmare: storms of highschool students or hoards of families. I instead had the whole space for myself. The exhibition is pretty catchy and simple, as it deals with basic questions anyone asks her/himself at some point: how does the faculty of talking work? How do kids learn to talk? And so on. But thankfully it goes further. And there it is when it spreads its wings.

Cosmocaixa cooperated with University Pompeu Fabra, University of Barcelona and ICREA (Catalan Institute of Research and Advanced Studies) for the project, and it was beyond interesting to see the results.

The visit really gave me the opportunity of experiencing in the same place so many different practices that are currently being put in place or discussed in contemporary exhibitions and I was delighted by it.
I would like to refer to user generated content – in specific way -, virtual reality and individual visitors experiences.

The user generated content & the individual visitors experience of Talking Brains

In Talking Brains each visit is different from any other. Besides some introductory panels at the beginning of the sections, there is not much shown to the eye of the lazy visitor. Talking Brains requires the visitors to constantly interact with what the curators have planned: the content is actually hidden, and will be partially generated, or better said, uncovered, by the actions performed by each visitor.

“Hola Lucrezia” – reaction times comparison between my results and the average of visitors regarding mistaken heard in spoken sentences (I am slow but accurate ūüėČ )

All are given the possibility of shaping their own educational activity throughout the whole exhibition thanks to a chip card that they can customized at the beginning of the visit with their name. Thanks to this, the visitors will be greeted in their preferred language (Spanish, Catalan, French and English are available) at each ‚Äústation‚ÄĚ of the visit, where they can interact with the content, whether by pushing buttons to highlight a map or answering questions.

This way each experience becomes literally unique and ‚Äúlabeled‚ÄĚ for me without needing to refer to transcendental or perceptional differences in a complex way: no, my visit will necessarily be unique because I will answer some questions in a different way and my learning experience will therefore tailored based.

For an exhibition dedicated to something so complex and the nature of which is still being researched such as the language, I think it was a perfect decision.

Virtual reality in an exhibition context

I was really thrilled when I put on the glasses – helmet, it had been months that I had wanted to use a pair and I watched the short documentary on how the brain is shaped after birth even twice with a very stupid smile on my face because of said thrill. Still. I do not think it really added anything to the exhibition, and it could have lived without it, since apart from the very beginning (when millions of spermatozons are reaching an egg from EVERYWHERE around you, something I genuinely mistook for a representation of the Big Bang at first and asked myself what was that) and the end, it is not even particularly representative of it. In my opinion it was more show off than anything but still…fun for me (link)

The content of the exhibition

If the first part of the visit was quite boring for me in regard to its content (focussing on how learning processes etc.), I became the most excited person around towards the end, where the curators staged a brilliant series of cognitive exercises that challenged our brains. Here visitors are faced with much more complex tasks that are (if I remember correctly) never right or wrong but are only aimed to show how the brain works when it is requested to perform some activities, for example identifying pronounced vowels through headphones, remembering sequence of spoken words, suggesting the first word that comes to one’s mind after being shown another word and so on. And all the answers the visitors gave before yours are visible at the end of each step and displayed via graphs, charts, maps that show average answers in your language and in general. Brilliant.

Comparison between my answers and all visitors’¬† ones regarding the matching of spoken vowels and displayed ones (phones and graphems)


Comparison between visitors’ answers on phonetics with the variable of the mother tongue


Semantic fields – my speed and that of the other visitors at answering

I do not know how many visitors the exhibition had, but I can only estimate several hundreds, as there are agreements between Barcelona’s schools and Cosmocaixa. Anyway, it is clear that this is a huge amount of wonderful data to use.

The intro to the cognitive maps


Beneficio, hotel, Pues, and Postal were the words that the system proposed to me.


the dream

I asked already several weeks ago what would be done with this material, not because I am afraid of Google nor such things, but because it would be just  F A N T A S T I C to see the results at least of those beautiful cognitive maps published outside of the academic circles.
I had no answers, I still hope they are going to do something out of it and that it will be of public use.

All pictures (as bad as they are) are mine.

Pic: the end of the exhbition – transdisciplinarity is regarded as the key.

Biennale 2017 – notes

It took me about 15 years to visit the Biennale Arte in Venezia, I am not sure how this happened, but so it is. VivaArteViva has been my first one. 
The immediate thought I had after entering the Arsenale is that yes, resonance and wonder are what lead my visits to exhibitions.

And wonder is what took over right after passing the first part of the Pavilion of the Common, when I faced Maria Lai and Lee Mingwei and their intertwined wowed narratives. To sew, to weave, to spin are activities that in a pretty simple way evocate collective (common) practices and therefore cultures (as collection of practices and knowledge). But the wonder is given by the works, not only the metaphor. While Maria Lai is represented through pictures of her performances, and among others with the mesmerizing works Geografia e Storia Universale, on the right Lee Mingwei is there in person collecting pieces of clothing brought by the visitors and talks with them about the stories of the clothes. Behind him two walls with bobbins and a fantastic net of spread nets. Sbam.

Then through the Pavilion of the Earth, where one of the few works I had already chosen as favourite beforehand was: Michel Blazy’s. Again, so easy in its message but yet so powerful in the realization. Interrupting the visit since it is in the middle of the hall, a showcase of rotten shoes transformed into flower pots is presented to your eyes. In the darkness of the Arsenale, the neon lights of this shop window invite the visitor to not only walk around the work (which is necessary, as it is an obstacle), but also to investigate closely the status of the plants (some were dead, by September) wondering how many other plants we are forcing into unnatural growth. Julian Charrière’s Future Fossils with its huge doric columns with mounted lithium is the perfect companion to Blazy.

Further on, in the Pavilion of Tradition, it has been Sopheap Pich who caught my eye: the striking contrast between his slow, analogic and traditional method of production (rolling and pressing a stick of bamboo colored with natural pigment on watercolour paper) and the graphic result of the work, a digital representation of sound. Brilliant.

I loved playing in the Pavilion of Time and Infinity with the works of Liu Jianhua and Alicja Kwade, because they complemented themselves so well, occupying the whole surface of the last space of the Arsenale in the darkness with the fluidity of porcelain of Jianhua crystallized in big golden drops forever mirrored and replicated by Kwade’s installation.  

From the Giardini, I only take a few impressions with me, and Taus Makhacheva’s Tightrope. Museums politics and their always intentional choices about what to display and when to do it, forgotten art in museums storages are the topic but it is a dance: in the artist’s video several artworks are moved from one peak to another on a rope, an action that can be only performed by those who can really dare to defeat real or metaphoric borders and dangers: tightrope walkers.

Iconographic references of almost all above mentioned works and a few more here and here. All pictures are mine, ça va sans dire.

Start up e balle spaziali

Il disgraziato video della filiale di non ricordo dove di Intesa San Paolo ha scatenato così tante reazioni da aver raggiunto anche me, che di solito sono indifferente a tutto quello che succede in matria.

Ho letto diverse riflessioni su un mucchio di temi legati al video, dal bullismo online a analisi sulla prassi aziendale e comunicativa che sarebbe bene avere e cos√¨ via… Io ne ho estratto che molti ritengono che quest’azienda cos√¨ terribile e miope da incitare i propri dipendenti a fare una cosa del genere (…) sia per forza:
un’azienda con una gerarchia forte, con una struttura verticale e autoritaria, che manca di autoironia e semplicit√†, come √® giusto che invece al giorno d’oggi le grandi aziende siano. Come grazie a dio ora sarebbero le narrazioni delle aziende internazionali pi√Ļ attraenti.

Mai cos√¨ distante mi √® sembrata l’Italia dal punto di vista lavorativo.

Qualche settimana fa ho avuto un colloquio in una micro ditta tedesca che sviluppa e vende ai musei un software per gestire le visite. Al colloquio ero pi√Ļ preparata* io che le persone che mi intervistavano. Dovevo capirlo, del resto l’annuncio di lavoro era davvero informale e orizzontale, cominciando dal fatto che dava del tu al lettore, un No-go in Germania. 

Il colloquio procede a rilento, con loro che non sanno chi debba raccontare cosa, tanto meno chiedere, a un certo punto uno dei tre (tre) prende persino in giro un altro dicendogli “ah ma non ti sei preparato bene?!” e mi guarda con aria complice ma io non rido perch√© in queste cazzo di Startup Berlinesi ci ho lavorato per anni e cose di questo tipo le odio tanto quanto la ClubMate nel frigo venduta come un “advantage”.

Comunque alla fine di questo colloquio imbarazzante per tutti i presenti, in cui capisco che non avrei mai potuto lavorare con loro, il CEO e founder mi dice “ti faremo sapere alla fine della prossima settimana, e se passi la prima selezione, ti inviteremo alla nostra colazione del venerd√¨ con tutto il team, perch√© io voglio che si decida insieme chi viene assunto”.
Non ho idea di che faccia possa aver fatto a sentire questa stronzata e vorrei che tutti si rendessero conto del perché questa sia una cazzata.
Questo, ragazzi, fa schifo per un sacco di motivi, non so se lo vediate subito, voi che l’azienda che si comporta come una famiglia √® bella e tutte quelle menate l√† e l’informalit√† delle Start Up e “Ma all’estero..”:

  1. io apprezzerei che tu CEO & Founder ti assumessi la responsabilità della tua scelta
  2. io vorrei che tu CEO & Founder mi difendessi e mi rappresentassi un giorno se ce ne sar√† mai bisogno, non che dicessi “ah, ma ci siamo sbagliati tutti” e rimettessi la colpa a tutti gli altri
  3. io dimostrerò al resto del team quanto valgo sia per la mia personalità e per le mie competenze con il tempo o facendo una prova, non davanti a un caffé ed il cazzo di Streuselkuchen vegano fatto dalla compagna del developer
  4. davvero? sar√† fattibile quando si √® in cinque, massimo, ma poi cos’√®, democrazia diretta grillina? Puah
  5. vuoi condividere la responsabilità del recruiting ma le revenues le tieni te? hahahaha. Siamo tutti una grande famiglia e abbiamo shared values e la gerarchia è super orizzontale fino al 27 del mese, o fino al prossimo standup meeting.

Io sono arrivata a credere moltissimo nella divisione delle mansioni e delle responsabilit√†, cos√¨ come credo nelle gerarchie in buona parte. E soprattutto pretendo che il mio capo, o team lead o chi per lui, mi rispetti, e, ancor pi√Ļ se mi ha assunta, che mi difenda davanti agli altri e abbia il coraggio di dire “questa √® la nuova persona nel team, sa fare un sacco di cose ed √® una gran figa e l’ho scelta per questo”.

L’idea di azienda-famiglia praticata davvero √® una baggianata, secondo me. O c’√® la completa, assoluta, insindacabile trasparenza salariale, oppure non c’√® e basta. E non va perseguita n√© lodata.


Foto: √ą ARTE, Kantstrasse, Berlino, Ottobre 2017


*curiosa nei loro confronti e del loro progetto, professionale nel rispondere, e non in tailleur ma neanche in pigiama, mentre loro si stavano leggendo il mio CV sul momento, avevano un laptop acceso davanti e uno di loro indossava delle CIABATTE da casa – e no, non fa ridere dire “son tedeschi”. Cazzo.