The human brain weighs only approximately 1400 grams. Yet it defines who we are and what we do. Furthermore, evolution of this organ in the past 200.000 years enabled us to create the complex society full of modern technology we live in today. As a former neuroscientist, I am intrigued by this beautiful organ that is so essential to our daily live and the world we live in. I try to capture this beauty by combining MRI scans, digital sculpting, 3D printing, and craftsmanship to create brain sculptures that fascinate and educate people.
Importance of the brain for our daily lives is greatly illustrated by its vulnerability. That is, in the Netherlands alone already 3.8 million people (±25%) suffer from a brain disorder, such as depression, stroke, and Alzheimer’s Disease. These diseases have a huge impact on the quality of life of these people. Part of my work illustrates this vulnerability; a healthy brain should not be taken for granted. Hopefully it will encourage people to live a healthy life.
Another aspect of the brain that fascinates me is its physical appearance in combination with mortality. As a neuroscientist, I have worked on various brain autopsies to collect MRI scans and brain tissue for research. Every autopsy, I was impressed by the moment the brain was lifted from the skull and held in the hands of the neuropathologist. Although the pattern of convolutions (i.e. anatomy) is very similar between brains, each brain does have its unique physical appearance (e.g. size, weight, overall shape). At the same time, being able to hold someone’s brain is only possible when a person has passed away. For me, this creates tension. On the one hand, I am fascinated by the brain that is lifted from the skull. On the other hand, this feeling is inappropriate, because an actual living person has passed away. The end result is an unsatisfying feeling. To overcome this tension and focus on life instead of death, I provide the opportunity for clients to obtain a bronze sculpture of their own brain based on their MRI scan. This individualized work nicely reveals the variability of the brain between people, as I also observed during autopsies.
Art provides a way to visually share my fascination for the brain with others and create awareness of its impact on society. As the evolution of the human brain stands at the base of modern society, I dare to say that for a large part we created our world. However, this also puts us at risk for destroying it. But if we keep using our brains properly, I believe we can prevent this from happening in the (near) future.