Care of the Brain

The _____ Between Us Lines

Wilfred Vlad Tomescu

November 2, 2017artist contribution,

‘The _____ Between Us Lines’ is an experimental text contribution by Wilfred Vlad Tomescu to the Open! COOP Academy research theme (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism. The aesthetics of the text are meant to reminisce about dot matrix or thermal printing and to reference ticker tape, punch cards and the first human computers, such as Jean Bartik, a savant mathematician operating the ENIAC in 1946

To explore ‘The _____ Between Us Lines’, read the author’s introduction, scroll through the image and download the complete text.

‘The _____ Between Us Lines’ – Scrollable image


The first sexual act is one of devouring.
Two single cells are entangled in a desire to be inside one another.1

Over time, asteroids collide and fuse together to form a habitable planet. 
A single cell submits to another to become a symbiotic, complex organism.2

Ancient bacterial communities develop genetic technologies of survival; they begin living in denser and more efficient colonies organised as larger living entities 

Synapses are gates at the end of busy axon terminals full of neurotransmitters.
The majority of these chemical messengers are nurtured in the gut microbiome.3

‘The _____ Between Us Lines’ is a 2-dimensional exploration of a cellular microcosm.

The text departs from the idea that strands of DNA4 and repeated neural impulses could be used as units of language to create linguistic patterns. Simultaneous narratives follow these ramifications and collide into one non-linear programme that skips through timelines and scales to explore isolation. 

Single cells possessing subjective cognitive capabilities weave their emotions of longing and separation (from foreign cells) into narratives to broadcast them through the neural network, actively affecting their host’s cognitive processes. Through dreams and hallucinations, the author is taking note of these stories.

‘The _____ Between Us Lines’ is a script, a play, a performance, a poem, an exhibition.

1. Endosymbiosis.

2. A eukaryotic cell.

3. Emeran A. Mayer, Rob Knight, Sarkis K. Mazmanian, John F. Cryan, Kirsten Tillisch, ‘Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience’, The Journal of Neuroscience 34, no. 46 (12 November 2014),

4. Polymerase Chain Reaction.

Wilfred Vlad Tomescu is a collector and curator of words; the sounds they make and carry and those they represent; the meanings they stand for and their misinterpretation. Wilfred is a wordsmith – often composing collected, found or archived material – who has a keen interest in working with the deep nuances of language and exploring the linguistic craft through text-based performance, sound installation, embodied narratives and performative writing.

Care of the Brain
(Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism
The seven major fibre bundles of the human brain; these tracks are created using DSI Studio and rendered in TrackVis. Image: Sudhir Pathak

The brain is a work, and we do not know it. We are its subjects, authors and producers at once – and we do not know it.
—Catherine Malabou

(Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism is a new series of artists’ publications resulting from the 2016–2017 Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI). DAI is an internationally orientated MA Art Praxis focusing on art, but explicitly granting attention to the crossings and interactions with other domains, disciplines and knowledges. As a partner of DAI, Open! conducts thematical research and publishes projects with a group of MA students using the Open! platform as the overarching discursive framework and site for experimentation and presentation. You can find links to the results of the previous year below.

This year our study group questioned the state of the mind and brain under conditions of cognitive capitalism. Mainly from the perspective of the humanities and political aesthetics, we focused on current notions of the brain in our global capitalist societies. We asked after how far the brain can be ideologically infiltrated or resist that infiltration. From the assumption that culture and brain form complex systems of influence, control and resistance, and that language, memory and imagination are more and more performed by machines and automated algorithmic procedures, we looked at some of the implications of ‘cognitive automation’ in terms of our subjectivity, identity and free will. We learned how neuro-scientific conceptions of the brain can be appropriated by cognitive capitalism and charted possibilities to subvert the instrumentalization of our brains. 

Through seminars and in conversation with generous guest tutors and by studying texts and other resources, we entered the brain. We were very much inspired by philosopher Catherine Malabou’s questioning of ‘what we should do so that consciousness of the brain does not purely and simply coincide with the spirit of capitalism’. Malabou wants to instigate consciousness of the ‘plasticity’ of the brain – that is the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience – at the service of an emancipatory political understanding. We also closely looked at the ‘neuroplastic dilemma’ as described by theorist and activist Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi who asserts that neuroplasticity can be the condition for the reactivation of empathy and political solidarity’s necessary conditions for a process of self-organization of the general intellect driven by ethical and aesthetic sensibilities rather than by the an-ethical impulse of economic competition.

Artist-theorist Warren Neidich introduced us to the fields of neuro-aesthetics, neuro-ethics and concepts such as the neurobiological sublime, the brain without organs and noology. Art historian Antonia Majaca conducted a brainy seminar about the use of technology and the potential to generate non-paranoid imagination and agency in the age of algorithmic governmentality. Bifo passionately spoke about the Guattarian concept of ‘chaosmose’ and about ‘chaosmique spasm’. He urged us to find a new rhythm between the relation of the brain and the chaos of the infosphere. Art historian Amelia Groom focused on ‘viscosity with a will’ and went into the ways in which soft invertebrates and brainless slimes invite new ways of understanding intelligence, embodiment and collectivity. Finally researcher and lecturer Willem van Weelden tried to critically compare Malabou’s recent definition of trauma (brain trauma and psychic trauma), based on the advances made in neurobiology and new senses of materiality (plasticity), with Jean-François Lyotard’s investigation of time and matter – as demonstrated in the eighties by his manifestation ‘Les Immatériaux’ and his philosophy of the Inhuman. 

Alongside all this the Open! COOP Academy participants developed their individual (image)essays and experimental writings, guided by the Open! team and the guest tutors. As a collaborative exercise in thinking and writing they also created a playful image-text lexicon in relation to the overarching subject matter and the issues at stake, so as to break open concepts and create new relationships among them.1