When I first looked at the paintings of Emilie Benoist I thought I was seeing very pretty versions of fMRIs —brain scans that have become one of the emblems of the contemporary neurosciences. I was struck by the apparent precision of the images. But as I approached the paintings I realized that the images had no neuroanatomical basis. In Emilie Benoist’s installations, the functional brain maps that have become so pervasive in contemporary culture were not accurate brain maps at all. I marvelled at the idea that her two-dimensional forms were a trompe-l’œil, and as such, offered a deep comment about science and in particular the neurosciences.
While it might be generally believed that science is about precision, prediction and unshakeable truths, the illusory quality of Emilie Benoist’s cortical maps seemed to be saying that the precision the popular mind associates with the sciences is as illusory as the precision I thought I saw in her fanciful reproductions of fMRI images of the human brain. In my own way I read into her designs the idea that science is not a fixed body of knowledge. Science, like art, is a never-ending pursuit.