Writer, Author, Speaker

Barbara Maria Stafford is an independent writer, curator and speaker. Her work has consistently explored the intersections between the visual arts and the physical and biological sciences from the early modern to the contemporary era. Her current research charts the revolutionary ways the neurosciences are changing our views of the human and animal sensorium, shaping our fundamental assumptions about perception, sensation, emotion, mental imagery, and subjectivity. Her most recent book is The Field Guide to a New Metafield: Bridging the Humanities-Neurosciences Divide [2011].



A Critical Conversation on Affect Theory, Neuroscience, and Art-Science Collaborations
Art history is increasingly entangled in understandings of vision and perception that are elaborated outside the humanities. Despite a surge in scholarly interest in neuroarthistory, cognitive science, and affect theory, there is little writing on the use and abuse of science in and for art history, art criticism, or studio art practice. Much of the literature is presentist, employing scientific findings from the last twenty years, and occluding the deeper histories of scientific understanding that go back to the Enlightenment and beyond. With the conspicuous counter-example of affect theory’s reliance on Deleuze’s reading of Spinoza, much of the literature begins after the digital revolution. This session brings together innovative scholars and artists for a critical conversation on alternate sources to the current ideas of vision, perception, sensation, mental imagery, and subjectivity. The pioneering work of art historian Barbara Maria Stafford, recipient of the inaugural MediaArtHistories award in 2015, will serve as a catalyst for this conversation. From her early investigations into the philosophical, scientific and aesthetic debates on the visualization of knowledge, to her more recent work dedicated to bridging the divide between the humanities, neurosciences, and cognitive science, Stafford has offered compelling paradigms for interdisciplinary scholarship and creative collaboration. Each speaker will offer a brief paper, and the ensuing critical conversation will focus on pathways for future collaboration and research.

Speakers: Jim Elkins, Sally McKay, Warren Neidich
Respondents: Eduardo Kac and Barbara Maria Stafford

 Upcoming Events:

Appointed to International Jury for the Waterhouse Prize [dedicated to Art/Science Collaborations] with final Jury and Exhibition Adelaide, Australia: June 2018.


Recent Talks by Barbara Stafford.

Mellon Sawyer Seminar
"The Magical Sublime"

Brown Symposium 38: Art & Revolution
"Creation Unbound"

Barbara Stafford Receives the MediaArtHistories Award

On November 7, 2015, Prof. Dr. Barbara Maria Stafford was honored in Montreal with the MediaArtHistories Award of the International conference series on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology. Stafford is one of the most renowned and innovative contemporary art historians.

The Jewel Game: Gems, Fascination and the Neuroscience of Visual Attention

By Barbara Stafford

Each time our gaze strikes the surface of any material or substance, a small miracle occurs. That which was nothing before becomes something for a few moments, and then nothing again once our gaze is averted. Looking at jewels makes us aware that we are aware, integrating the mind with the body at a particular instant in time while simultaneously incorporating the nonhuman world into our innermost being. 

Controversial Bodies:Thoughts on the Public Display of Plastinated Corpses

"A rich survey of the issues provoked by the public display of plastinated corpses backed up by an impressive range of scholarship."—Alastair V. Campbell, author of The Body in Bioethics

Controversial, fascinating, disturbing, and often beautiful, plastinated human bodies—such as those found at Body Worlds exhibitions throughout the world—have gripped the public's imagination. These displays have been lauded as educational, sparked protests, and drawn millions of visitors. This book looks at the powerful sway these corpses hold over their living audiences everywhere.