October 19, 2016 | Meeting 1453 | Professor Gregory Garvey, Quinnipiac University

Meeting Minutes 1453 October 19, 2016

Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences
Minutes of the CAAS 1453rd Meeting
October 19, 2016

Whitney Center, Hamden, CT

Minutes of CAAS Meeting 1453:  Professor Gregory Garvey, Quinnipiac University.

Gregory Tignor, President of CAAS, convened the meeting at 5:30 after the Annual CAAS Business Meeting that convened at 4 PM followed by a wine reception at 5 PM. 

Tignor introduced a new member.  Lila Wolff Wilkinson nominated Paul Klein, a graduate of Yale School of Music and currently a faculty member at the Neighborhood Music School.  Professor Joseph LaPalombara wrote an extraordinary letter that was quoted by Tignor in support of Klein’s nomination.  The nomination was unanimously approved. 

Professor Tignor then turned the meeting over to Professor Ronald Heiferman, Vice-President for Quinnipiac, who introduced the guest speaker, Professor Greg Garvey, Chair of Visual & Performing Arts and Director of Game Design & Development at Quinnipiac University. 

Professor Garvey gave a presentation to the membership and guests in attendance about the background and motivation for the development of a “Split-Brain” human-computer interface. 

In doing so, Prof. Garvey cited numerous examples of how various works of art and developments in science and technology have inspired the creation of new projects. 

This discussion was put into a broader historical context that traced the rise of a new international art practice coupled to both scientific and technological developments from the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany to the founding of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Prof. Garvey’s split-brain interface was developed for an interactive computer based art-work entitled “Anita und Clarence in der Hölle” (Anita and Clarence in Hell): An Opera for Split-Brains in Modular Parts” which was originally produced at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 1999. 

This work was “restaged” in 2014 under the updated title: “The Split-Brain (Dichoptic) Interface: Thomas v. Hill (1999/2014)” which was part of the exhibit “Sleuthing the Mind” curated by Ellen K. Levy at the Pratt Manhattan Galley in New York. 

For this interactive computer based installation the split-brain interface employed the Screen-Scope stereoscopic viewer to deliver separate video streams simultaneously to each hemisphere of the viewer’s brain. 

When positioned correctly the nasal retina of the left eye watches the testimony of Anita Hill (seen by the right brain hemisphere) while simultaneously watching the testimony of then Supreme Nominee Clarence Thomas seen by the nasal retina of the right eye (thus seen by the left hemisphere). 

The whole brain experiences a kind of artificially induced cognitive dissonance as each hemisphere attempts to process separately the conflicting “he said/she said” accounts that were heard during the original 1991 United States Senate Judiciary Hearings on the Nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. 

The split-brain interface was inspired by the ‘split-brain’ research of Roger Sperry, Joseph Bogan, Phillip Vogel and most directly by the experimental methods of Michael Gazzaniga

Garvey also discussed how the work of scientists such as Hermann Von Helmholtz, inspired the broken brushwork of the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists (notably the pointillism of George Seurat). 

In his own work, Prof. Garvey cited A.M. Turing’s seminal paper in the Philosophical Journal Mind in 1950 as being the direct source for the creation of “The Automatic Confession Machine: A Catholic Turing Test.” 

Professor Garvey concluded his presentation by showing earlier installations that were inspired by Charles Wheatstone’s development of the first Stereoscopic viewer in 1838.  Intriguingly, Garvey suggested that Oliver Wendell Holmes, beat the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Viewer by over a hundred years when Holmes introduced his design for a stereoscopic viewer as recounted in his article in the 1859 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. 

Holmes wrote at the time: “Form is henceforth divorced from matter. In fact, matter as a visible object is of no great use any longer, except as the mold on which form is shaped. Give us a few negatives of a thing worth seeing, taken from different points of view, and that is all we want of it.” Holmes chose not to patent his device making it truly the first open source virtual reality viewer!


There was considerable discussion on the brain structure responsible for ambidextrous behavior.

The meeting was adjourned for dinner at which time the speaker was presented with a CAAS pin symbolizing his honorary year-long membership in CAAS.

Minutes and photos by Monica Aspianto