It was July 2017 when Al Mefer, an artist and neuroscience Ph.D. student based in Alicante, Spain, bought a camera and started his own photography projects dabbling in neuroaesthetics, where art and biology entwine.
“Neuroscience studies all the processes that in art come together: memory, perception, imagination,” Mefer wrote in an email. “The knowledge about this mental phenomena proposes a number of what-if questions that help me come up with ways to persuade my projects both conceptually and visually.”
Mefer said that one of the features he finds most interesting about art is the ability to create whole worlds of his own. He pointed out that the way people perceive their surroundings is dictated by their biology and experiences.
“Our perception of the world is just one of many, and although we’re incapable of sensing it like other species do, it’s stimulating and endless to imagine it in aesthetically challenging ways that question its phenomenology,” Mefer said. “By approaching my projects with this philosophy, I try to muse about this and put it in forms that are provoking and mysterious for us.”
Mefer’s art attempts to dive deeper on modern concerns, moving beyond topical aesthetics.
He described “Phantoms of the Brain,” a series addressing mental illness.
“‘Phantoms of the Brain’ uses the metaphor of the tree, employed by neuroscientists to describe brain cells because of their structural resemblance,” Mefer said. “In this series, forests covered by sudden rays of light and fog serve for imagery of a sick mind, full of despair, anxiety and depression.”
One of his latest works, “Alien Architecture,” mulls over the possibility of humans colonizing other planets after conditions such as climate change or overpopulation make Earth uninhabitable. Another, “The Human-Alien Barrier,” is meant to explore the possibility of human colonization being rejected by indigenous alien species, in a reflection on the refugee crisis in Europe, as an influx of migrants flee war in the Middle East and Africa.
“Photography means ‘the writing of light’ and most intuitively aims to represent the world as we perceive it,” Mefer said. “In this respect, my representation fulfills the appreciation of our surroundings through subjects within altered states or with different sense organs to imagine alternative worlds: those of dreams, hallucinations or even outer space.”