This is your brain on art

A stunning project with the aim of making us aware that we desperately need to mind our minds

A stunning project with the aim of making us aware that we desperately need to mind our minds

Monica Brinkman’s brain (Source: The Brain Project)

Did you know that our brains are constantly deteriorating and there's no real repairing system? Did you know that Alzheimer's is a fatal disease? Did you know that women suffer from depression, stroke and dementia TWICE as much as men, and that 70% of new Alzheimer's patients will be women?

We all feel sympathetic towards our grandparents struggling with dementia and Alzheimer's and we laugh light-heartedly when our 60-something parents begin to forget names for things and where they left the scissors. But it'll only be one hot minute until our brains are noticeably weakened by age and we can't remember what happened yesterday, and that switch in ability won't be particularly hilarious to realize.

Because we don't often think to care about our brains the same way we think to care about other parts of our bodies, some pretty cool people are doing cool things to grab our attention in light of World Brain Day: July 22nd. In Toronto, The Brain Project (by Telus Health and in support of Baycrest Health Sciences) is blowing minds. Pardon the pun.

Tanya Taylor’s brain (The Brain Project)

It's a huge public art exhibition featuring 100 brain sculptures by bona fide artists and other brilliant Canadians like fashion designer Tanya Taylor and everybody's favourite retired Toronto Blue Jay, Joe Carter.

Kurt Browning integrated some old skate blades into his brain. Abstract artist Katrina Elena designer her brain to be quite pretty, actually, painted pink and teal and covered in crystals to reflect the complexity and misconceptions that come with mental illness. I love the brain sculpture by Toronto collage artist Julia Campisi, she used daffodils to express the beauty of photographic memory and inspire reflection on the uncertainty of the future — it's really pretty and quite sobering at the same time. The Brain Project sculptures have been designed and erected around Toronto to raise awareness about the intersection of art and brain health.

Julia Campisi’s brain (The Brain Project)

Even pondering all of this, I actually didn't grasp the intersection of art and brain health until I talked to Matt Litzinger, President and Chief Creative Officer at Red Lion Canada, the agency tasked with using media to explain what exactly The Brain Project is. The way that Matt explained The Brain Project to me was incredibly enlightening:

"The link to art — the synapses that happen in the brain through looking at art, how that occurs and why that occurs — is that a lot of the recall that people have with art never goes away. Once a piece of art or a structure is installed in Baycrest Health Centre, it can never be removed because the people who are being treated there for reduced cognitive function will never forget that art or structure."

In other words, people who are living with dementia and Alzheimer's may not remember their children's names, or where they left the scissors, but they will always remember a piece of art in the hallway and use it as a point of reference for direction, and that's fascinating. The Brain Project uses art to raise awareness about brain health but there's actually a medical connection between art and brain health, and that's just another reason why art is so damn cool.

The campaign Matt and his team created with the acclaimed Toronto-based director Mark Zibert will air in Cineplex theatres across Canada throughout August. It was shot in reverse-motion cinematography and features fragments of "brain" (made out of mirrors, polaroids and jello) becoming whole again which, to be honest, can never happen in real life after deterioration.

The project's beautiful commercial set to a score with words by Toronto-based spoken-word poet Britta B. It's a rallying cry for we Millennials to please, for the love of all that is good, begin to love our brains with care like we do other bits of our bodies.