Signs Of Life

During 2017 Mervyn has been Artist in Residence at the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary University of London. The residency was supported by the Leverhulme Trust.

Signs of LifeSigns of LifeSigns of LifeSigns of LifeSigns of Life

Images shown from the workshop on 'Signs of Life' at the O'Neill National Puppetry Conference in Waterford CT in the summer of 2017.

He has been using the residency to learn more about how our brains respond to a situation where we believe something to be alive when it is not. When we are enjoying watching puppets, we playfully encounter this phenomenon like a viewer with a Necker Cube.

Mervyn has discussed this phenomenon and related experiences with leading researchers across the UK in a variety of fields including experimental psychologists, neurologists, social neuroscientists and philosophers. The Centre for the History of Emotions has provided a place to contextualise the findings and reflect on next steps.

It is possible that the work will result in a new theatre piece to do with perception.

Mervyn is blogging here.

The lead contact at CHE is Dr Tiffany Watt-Smith.

Other correspondents include:

Dr Catharine Abell and Dr Joel Smith, Manchester University

Dr A P Atkinson and Dr Paddy Ross, Durham University

Dr Michael Banissy and Dr Guido Orgs, Goldsmiths University of London

Dr Lisa Bortolotti, Birmingham University

Dr Caroline Catmur and Dr Eamonn Walsh, Kings College University of London

Prof Emily Cross, Prof Paul Downing and Dr Kami Koldewyn, Bangor University

Dr James Kilner, UCL

Dr Nikolaus Kriegeskorte, MRC-CBU Cambridge University

Prof Matthew Longo, Birkbeck University of London

Stephen Mottram, puppeteer

Dr Marta Ponari, University of Kent

Paul Piris, puppetry director and academic

Dr Susanne Quadflieg, University of Bristol

Yoav Segal animator and film-maker

Prof Susanna Siegel, Harvard University

As part of the project Mervyn led a workshop at the O'Neill National Puppetry Conference in Waterford, Connecticut. Participants in the workshop included: Brenda Abbandandolo, Daniel Adams, Felice Amato, Clayton Barry, Bob Bartlett, Karly Bergman, Kirk Bixby, Andrew Brown, Mery Cheung, Randi Edmundson, Marte Ekhougen, Michelle Finston, Kevin Hale, Cindy Hartigan, Shannon Iriarte, Sarah Olmsted Thomas, and Noel Williams. Many thanks to them and to the conference organisers.

In October, Mervyn participated in a symposium at QMUL discussing themes raised in the study, along with some of the researchers he had contacted during the residency: Prof Emily Cross, Prof Matthew Longo, Dr Susanne Quadflieg, and Dr Joel Smith. They were chaired by Dr Tiffany Watt-Smith and supported by puppeteers David Emmings and Teele Uustani. The full symposium can be viewed here.

Signs of Life