Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and curated by the artist Susan Aldworth, the exhibition is the result of research lead by Professor Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter College of Medicine and Health, and the Eye’s Mind research group: Fiona Macpherson (philosophy, Glasgow), Crawford Winlove (neuroscience, Exeter), John Onians (art history, University of East Anglia), and Matthew MacKisack (cultural history, Exeter).
In 2015, Professor Zeman coined the term “aphantasia” to describe a phenomenon in which some people are unable to conjure up pictures inside their minds. He called the opposite phenomenon “hyperphantasia”, in which people have particularly vivid mental imagery.
When these extremes of ‘mind’s eye’ experience were identified, a huge public response followed, with thousands of people recognising themselves as ‘aphantasic’ or ‘hyperphantasic’ – including a number of artists.
Extreme Imagination: inside the mind’s eyepresents their artwork, inviting us to consider the impact of these phenomena on the creative process. How can someone make anything without being able to imagine what they want it to look like? Is there a distinctly hyperphantasic kind of art?
Aphantasia and its opposite teach us about human diversity: the easily-missed, potentially startling differences between individuals’ inner lives. The work of the participating artists – and designers, architects, and writers – demonstrates the diversity of means by which things come to be made, challenging long-held beliefs about what it means to be ‘creative’.
Find interviews with participating artists here.