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David Byrne’s Psychological Fun House

The former Talking Head messes with our minds.


This October, David Byrne will help you:

A. Accurately predict election results.
B. Shrink down to doll size.
C. Freeze time.
D. All of the above. 

Answer: D. The former Talking Heads leading man turned performance artist has teamed up with 15 cognitive neuroscience labs around the world to create The Institute Presents: Neurosociety, an immersive theatrical piece on view at Pace Art + Technology in Palo Alto from October 27 to March 31. The installation is made up of five rooms, each filled with an “experience” born of Byrne’s wild imagination. Some are realistic (like visiting a voting booth), and some will melt your mind (like watching your hands swell like balloons).

But the project isn’t just about making viewers feel as though they’re tripping like the Merry Pranksters. It’s a social experiment: Every experience reveals how our brain’s built-in biases alter our understanding of a situation. In other words, you’ll see your brain’s subjectivity at work. If that sounds like a psych experiment, it is: Visitors’ reactions will be chronicled and used for research by the labs involved, if you give permission. Sure beats reading the textbook.


Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

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