“While countless artists and inventors have tapped into the subconscious using meditation, Chavez is taking the idea a step further by exploring how human consciousness, including her own, can itself become an art material.” —The Wall Street Journal
"The human fascination with perceiving light in dark places is an enduring existential mystery which taps into the very essence of discovery. Whether gazing through a telescope to behold the most ancient galaxies in the universe, or training the mind through meditation to peer into the luminous, numinous recesses of deep inner space, one thing is certain: the Void is alive and teeming with light forms which challenge assumptions and transfigure with their presence.
"The historical record of cross-cultural contemplatives, mystics, and artists perceiving radiant visions in the darkness of the meditating mind is prolific; indeed, it is easily the most established artistic tradition known to humankind. A wide variety of artists have regarded their work to be in continuity with the visions gleaned from their excursions to the superconscious mind. Among them: mandala-making Tibetan Buddhists; medieval mystics like Hildegard von Bingen; and early 20th century artists like Hilma af Klint, Wassily Kandinsky, and Joan Miró. Perhaps the most poignant figure of them all is that of the Paleolithic cave artist, who carved shamanic visions upon stone walls during long stays in deep, dark earthen caverns — the world’s first galleries." — Lia Chavez
ON THE SCIENCE OF MYSTICAL VISION
On the Science of Mystical Vision, 2014 - present
Performance and collaborative research venture in the neuroscience of superconscious visual perception
Goldsmiths College and Queen Mary, University of London
Artistic Director and Performer: Lia Chavez
Scientific Directors, Data Collection & Analysis: Drs. Joydeep Bhattacharya and Caroline di Bernardi Luft
Host Institutions: Goldsmiths College and Queen Mary, University of London
Research Funding Bodies: Creativity Enhancement through Advanced Brain Mapping and Stimulation (CREAM) and Seventh Framework Programme
A performative mystic who practices rigorous physical exigency to sharpen her artistry as she searches inward – thirty day meditations deep in primeval caverns, forty day vows of silence, three-month fasts – Lia Chavez is an explorer of the inner cosmos, delving into various forms of sensory deprivation in order to expand our concept of perception. At the heart of her artistic process is Chavez’s understanding that light’s spiritual and phenomenological qualities are revealed in literal darkness. Her commitment to probing the paradox between light and dark has led her through various forms of rigorous mental training which have led her to repeatedly and predictably experience visionary experiences. One such practice which she has explored in depth is durational meditation within caves.
As part of her intricate contemplative investigation of the inner landscape, Chavez initiated On the Science of Mystical Vision, a work of art and science guided by the mission to develop a scientific language that corresponds with the visionary experiences at the borderlands of perception, which, until now, have been excluded from the realm of rigorous academic scrutiny. As a visiting artist in the neuroscience of creativity at Goldsmiths College and Queen Mary, University of London, Lia’s brain has been studied by both institutions’ pre-eminent neuroscientists for the past decade.
Chavez has honed a rare ability to systematically generate elevated states of gamma wave cortical activity which are accompanied by supersensory perceptions traditionally observed in enlightened spiritual masters and epilepsy patients only. This, combined with her proficiency in lucid communication of the visionary experiences while they occur, has been the subject of original contributions to the field of neuroscience published in leading peer reviewed journals, including the prestigious journal, Frontiers in Neuroscience.
“Chavez is interested in the Subject’s potential to create.” – Image Journal
“For Chavez, inner and outer space are connected, both literally and through the production of certain congruencies that exist between the mind, the world, and the cosmos.” – Image Journal
The artwork On the Science of Mystical Vision addresses the search for the invisible and eternal things that have yet to unfold — the journey into the inner cosmos. Notions that illumination within the mind is purely metaphorical arise from the disembodied persuasion of our time which slowly leads us to ignore the more subtle, phenomenological aspects of the visual world. The occurrence of light within the mind’s eye is an ancient biological communication tool used by the mind. The perception of light – including inner light – is a crucial component in defining, understanding, and orienting ourselves within a multidimensional cosmos. We live in a perceptual world steeped in a wide variety of encounters with luminosity, both subtle and gross, interior and exterior, but the cultural world has tended to emphasize those more conspicuous forms of perception.
Through their joint neuroscience research, Lia Chavez, Dr. Caroline Di Bernardi Luft and Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharya focus on the realm of interior visual perception, for nothing is seen unless the mind determines it to be visible. Their shared interests in the creative process, the science of the mind, and the unique capacities afforded by incorporating a subjective perspective into the scientific method has led these collaborators to focus on uncovering a new range of possibilities within the neuroscience of light.