The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City is the premiere collection of the art of the Himalayas. It has also become known as a hot destination in the city for unique and thought-provoking public programs. The Rubin recently wrapped up its second annual “Brainwave” program—a series of nearly fifty events exploring the intersection of mind and matter, including discussions with leading artists and neuroscientists.
The series started with a screening of the film Dalai Lama Renaissance followed by an exchange between Buddhist teacher and psychologist Mark Epstein and Tricycle editor James Shaheen. The program’s eclectic offerings included “Count Your Blessings: The Science of Positivity,” where meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg discussed the effects of positive psychology with neuropsychologist Barbara Fredrickson; “Buddhism and Science,” featuring Donald Lopez, professor of Buddhist and Tibetan studies, in conversation with neuroscientist Sam Wang on why two seemingly disparate modes of understanding have been so persistently linked; and Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence, talking about his new book, Ecological Intelligence.
One of the most popular events was “Disgust,” in which chef Mario Batali and psychology professor Paul Rozin discussed why we find certain tastes and smells repulsive. Brainwave was conceived by Rubin producer Tim McHenry. Performance artist Laurie Anderson, who has appeared both years, says she loves “the way he tied the arts and neuroscience together. Tim makes very long distance connections. He reminds you the world is bigger out there than you think.”
The festival culminated with the premiere of composer Sir John Tavener’s “Towards Silence.” The piece, a meditation on the four stages of death and four states of consciousness in the Upanishads—waking, dream, deep sleep, and beyond existence—was composed to be performed at the Rubin, with string quartets on four different floors and the audience on four floors as well. McHenry says with the sound traveling in the central staircase, the piece was “a vertical sound experience, where the music rises through you.”