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The Rubin Museum Explores Illusion in 2013 BRAINWAVE Series, Opening Today

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The Rubin Museum will explore illusion and human perception in this year's edition of the popular Brainwave series of on-stage conversations between mind scientists and thinkers from diverse walks of life. Opening today, February 6, the series will include 20 on-stage conversations, 50 film screenings, and an interactive experience in which the museum will become a Memory Palace. While illusion is usually associated with vision, the series will engage audiences through all five senses to provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject.

Additionally, the effects of trauma as a result of combat and recent work in treating PTSD and ADHD will be addressed through two new documentary films, High Ground and Free the Mind that will be screened and discussed with scientists and veterans.

"The Buddha taught that everything is illusion, just as everything is ephemeral, and that it is our perspective that counts," said director of public programs Tim McHenry. "So the sixth edition of Brainwave will explore how our perceptions of the world are shaped by the mechanics of our brains, which is both limiting and freeing."

Highlights from the series include:

The Mystique of Parsifal (February 6, 7 pm) As the acclaimed theater and film director François Girard (The Red Violin) prepares his new production of Wagner's Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera, he and Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Schoonover (Portraits of the Mind) delve into human perception, from stagecraft to film, from music to the mystique of the young hero Parsifal.

The Fear Project (February 9, 3pm) Surfer Jaimal Yogis meets with psychiatrist Srini Pillay to ascertain what role fear plays in our survival and how it colors our perception of reality.

Three Cartoonists (March 3, 6 pm) Cartoonists encapsulate an idea with economy of form. Here New Yorker cartoonists David Sipress, ZacharyKanin, and Paul Noth explore the creative illusion of putting pen to paper and discover which comes first: the words or the image.

The Humorist (March 6, 7 pm) Humorist Fran Lebowitz discusses the illusion of language with experimental psychologist Steven Pinker.

The Memory Palace (March 17, 6 pm and March 20, 7 pm) Memory is another form of illusion but also a tool to navigate the construct of time. Test your ability to retain and recall information you learned in one hour with US Memory Champion Nelson Dellis and Cognitive Pyschologist Lila Davachi. Employing exotic fragrances to help anchor your memorization and magical illusions to test them, this will be unlike any other museum experience you have ever had.

The Virtuoso (April 3, 7 pm) Tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain explores how rhythm is the most primal sense humans possess with neuroscientist Seth Horowitz.

The Brainwave schedule follows below. Additional programs will be confirmed throughout the coming weeks. For ticket information and updates on events, visit:


The Director François Girard + Neuroscientist Carl Schoonover

Wednesday, February 6, 7 pm, $35

As acclaimed theater and film director François Girard (The Red Violin) prepares his new production of Wagner's Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera, he and Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Schoonover (Portraits of the Mind) delve into human perception, from stagecraft to film, from music and imagery, to the mystique of the young hero Parsifal.

"Illusions are when your brain cut corners and got caught." - Carl Schoonover

French-Canadian director François Girard's work has spanned theater, opera, television, and film, most notably in the groundbreaking Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould, the Academy Award-winning The Red Violin, and the Emmy Award-winning Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach. His work on the stage has included Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, Kafka's The Trial, Wagner's Siegfried, and Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana seen at Radio City Music Hall.

Carl Schoonover graduated from Harvard College in 2006 with a degree in philosophy and is currently a doctoral student in Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University Medical Center. He has written on neuroscience for the general public in such publications as Le Figaro, Commentaire, and LiveScience. In 2008 he cofounded NeuWrite, a collaborative working group for scientists, writers, and those in between. He hosts the radio show Wednesday Morning Classical on WCKR 89.9 FM, which focuses on opera, classical music, and their relationship to the brain. He is a former NSF Graduate Research Fellow and a 2012 TED Fellow.

The Surfer Jamail Yogis + Psychologist SriniPillay

Saturday, February 9, 3 pm, $20

As a surfer, Jamail Yogis takes risks on a daily basis. Here he engages with Boston psychologist Dr. Srini Pillay (Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear) on the role that fear plays in our lives.

A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, Jaimal Yogis' award-winning articles have appeared in The Washington Post, ESPN Magazine, AFAR, and many others. His first book, Saltwater Buddha, has been internationally praised, translated into numerous languages, and is currently being adapted into a film. His latest book, The Fear Project, explores the science of fear, courage, and simply living well.

Srini Pillay, M.D., is the author of the book Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear, Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders, and The Science Behind the Law of Attraction. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School. Pillay was an NIMH- and NARSAD-funded researcher in brain imaging. He is the former Director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at McLean Hospital, Harvard's largest psychiatric training hospital. He is also the CEO of NeuroBusiness Group, a company focused on enhancing social intelligence in companies.

The Magician Joshua Jay + Neuroscientists Stephen Macknik and SusAna Martinez-Conde

Sunday, February 10, 3 pm, $25

"There is no such thing as real magic, but magicians come impressively close. And this childlike sense of wonder is an important part of existence. Albert Einstein said it well: 'The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.'" - Joshua Jay

Jay is the recipient of the 2011 Society of American Magicians' Magician of the Year award. He is also a former world champion sleight of hand artist, crowned at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas. Jay has performed and lectured in more than 60 countries and has appeared on every major US television network, most recently Good Morning America and The Today Show. His book, MAGIC: The Complete Course, is a best-seller in the world of magic and has been published in five languages.

In this program, Jay will allow neuroscientists Stephen Macknik and SusAna Martinez-Condeare, the founders of the new discipline of NeuroMagic and authors of Sleights of Mind, to study his techniques for tricking the brain.

Stephen Macknik and SusAna Martinez-Conde are laboratory directors at the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) in Phoenix, Arizona, where they study various aspects of visual, sensory, and cognitive neuroscience. They are also members of the Academy of Magical Arts (aka The Magic Castle in Hollywood), the Magic Circle (UK), the Society of American Magicians, and the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Their shared column on the neuroscience of illusions on gets hundreds of thousands of hits every month. One of these contributions is the most downloaded article in history. SciAm recently published a special issue of Scientific American: MIND (summer of 2010) dedicated completely to the authors' previous and ongoing contributions on illusion.

The Illustrator Maira Kalman + Psychologist Michael Morris

Sunday, February 10, 6 pm, $20

Maira Kalman has written and illustrated thirteen children's books, including Ooh-la-la-Max in Love, What Pete Ate, and Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John Jay Harvey. Her most recent children's book, 13 WORDS is a collaboration with Lemony Snicket. She is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and is well known for her collaboration with Rick Meyerowitz on the "New Yorkistan" cover in 2001. Kalmanis currently creating an illustrated column for The New Yorker based on her travels to museums and libraries. She also illustrated Strunk and White's classic The Elements of Style.

Michael Morris is a Professor with the Psychology Department of Columbia University. As the Chavkin-Chang Professor of Leadership in the Management Division of Columbia Business School he teaches MBA and executive-level classes on negotiation, decision making, and group dynamics. He designed and runs Columbia's Program on Social Intelligence, which translates emerging research insights into new forms of leadership training. Outside of academia, his consulting and training work brings him into contact with many private- and public-sector leaders from around the world.

The Photographer Mary Ellen Mark + Neuropsychologist Daniel L. Schacter

Saturday, March 2, 3 pm, $20

Renowned photographer Mary Ellen Mark sits down with preeminent researcher on memory Daniel L. Schacter will discuss the relationship between photographs and memory. The conversation will focus in particular on how reviewing photographs can both improve memory and also create false memories.

Mary Ellen Mark is recognized as one of our most respected and influential photographers, having achieved worldwide visibility through her seventeen books, exhibitions, and editorial magazine work. She is a contributing photographer to The New Yorker and has published photo-essays and portraits in such publications as LIFE, New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. For more than four decades, she has traveled extensively to make pictures that reflect a high degree of humanism. Her images of our world's diverse cultures have become landmarks in the field of documentary photography. Her portrayals of Mother Teresa, Indian circuses, and brothels in Bombay were the product of many years of work in India. Among her many awards, Mark was presented with the Cornell Capa Award by the International Center of Photography in 2001; The Infinity Award for Journalism; and an Erna & Victor Hasselblad Foundation Grant and a Walter Annenberg Grant for her book and exhibition project on AMERICA.

Daniel L. Schacter is a preeminent researcher on memory and is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. His research uses both cognitive testing and brain imaging techniques such as positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging. Schacter has written three books, edited seven volumes, and published over 200 scientific articles and chapters. His books include: Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past (1996); Forgotten ideas, neglected pioneers: Richard Semon and the story of memory. (2001); The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers (2001).

The Cartoonists David Sipress, Paul Noth, Zachary Kanin + a Neuroscientist

Sunday, March 3, 6 pm, $25

Here New Yorker cartoonists David Sipress, ZacharyKanin, and Paul Noth explore the creative illusion of putting pen to paper and discover which comes first: the words or the image.

Zachary Kanin is a brilliant young cartoonist, former editor of the Harvard Lampoon, and now a writer for Saturday Night Live, as well as being a very regular staff cartoonist for The New Yorker. Paul Noth is a New Yorker cartoonist who has also written for Late Night with Conan O'Brien and for CBS's The Late Late Show. David Sipresshas published over 400 cartoons in The New Yorker since 1998. His cartoons have been a weekly feature in The Boston Phoenix for more than thirty years, and his work has appeared in Time, Playboy, Gastronomica, Reader's Digest, The Washington Post, as well as in his own books.

Additional available will be posted to the Rubin Museum web site in the coming weeks.

The Humorist Fran Lebowitz + Experimental Psychologist Steven Pinker

Wednesday, March 6, 7 pm, $35

The much-quoted humorist Fran Lebowitz got her break when hired by Andy Warhol as a columnist for Interview. Her warmly sardonic and urbane wit was already apparent, leading to further magazine articles and then her first book in 1978, a collection of essays, Metropolitan Life, followed by Social Studies in 1981.For more than twenty years, Lebowitz has been famous in part for not writing Exterior Signs of Wealth, a long-overdue novel purportedly about rich people who want to be artists and artists who want to be rich. Her appearances on Late Night With David Letterman early in its run are legendary. She returned 16 years later to mark the release of HBO's Public Speaking, a documentary on her directed by Martin Scorsese.

Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist and one of the world's foremost writers on language, mind, and human nature. Currently Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, Pinker has also taught at Stanford and MIT. His research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has won prizes from the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, and the American Psychological Association. He has also received seven honorary doctorates, several teaching awards at MIT and Harvard, and numerous prizes for his books The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, and The Blank Slate. He is Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary and often writes for The New York Times, Time, and The New Republic.

The Virtuoso Zakir Hussain + Neuroscientist Seth Horowitz

Wednesday April 3, 7 pm,$35

Zakir Hussain is today appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon. A classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order, his consistently brilliant and exciting performances have not only established him as a National Treasure in his own country, India, but gained him worldwide fame. His playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study. The favorite accompanist for many of India's greatest classical musicians and dancers, he has not let his genius rest there. Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Hussain's contribution to world music has been unique, with many historic collaborations, recordings and performances with artists as diverse as George Harrison, YoYo Ma, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Airto Moreira, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, Mark Morris, Rennie Harris, and the Kodo drummers.

The author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind, Seth S. Horowitz, is a neuroscientist with a Masters in Psychology and Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brown University. He has worked and published in comparative and human hearing, balance, and sleep research. His research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, The Deafness Foundation, and NASA. As Chief Neuroscientist at NeuroPop, Inc., he has applied his basic research skills to real world situations ranging from health and wellness to educational science outreach. His work has been covered in popular media including NPR's Hear and Now and All Things Considered, the Boston Globe, and

The Spiceologist Lior Lev Sercarz + a Neurologist

Wednesday, April 10, 7 pm, $20

"My spice blends are a visual, tactile and aromatic invitation to travel the world without leaving your kitchen."-Lior Lev Sercarz

Lior Lev Sercarz is the chef, spice blender, and owner of La Boîte, a biscuits and spice shop in New York City. He has been named one of Bon Appetit's "Tastemakers of 2012" and La Boîte has been featured in publications including Vogue, In Style Magazine, Every Day with Rachel Ray, Food & Wine Magazine, and the Saveur 100. Growing up on a kibbutz in Israel, he was influenced by the country's diverse cuisine beginning at an early age. Sercarz's grandfather, who was Tunisian, and his Transylvanian wife, along with his upbringing in Belgium, Holland, and Paris exposed him to a world of spices and ingredients that would set the tone for the rest of his career. Culinary discoveries in South America led to cooking school in France and then to Daniel Boulud's Daniel. Initially at his own La Boîte, he started by making and selling a line of French biscuits. Sercarz began by reinterpreting traditional cookie recipes and later became fascinated with the idea of adding spices to them. What began as an experiment in cookie baking became intertwined with his love for fine art. From that point forward, he began inviting artists to design his biscuit boxes and to inspire a seasonal line of cookies. La Boîte releases a new box every six months. In 2011, after working more with spices, he opened La Boîte Biscuits & Spices, an art gallery and spice shop in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. Each season, the artists whose work adorns his cookie tins also show their work in the gallery.

The Chef Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 + TBA

Wednesday, April 17, 7 pm, $20

Wylie Dufresne is the chef and owner of WD-50, which opened in April 2003. Frank Bruni of the New York Times awarded WD-50 three stars in March 2008. In 2006 WD-50 received one star from the Michelin Guide, which it has retained in each subsequent year. Dufresne has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards, including "Best Chef New York" for six consecutive years commencing in 2007.

The Congressman Tim Ryan + Psychologist Tracy Dennis

Saturday, April 20, 3 PM, $20

Congressman Tim Ryan, an advocate of mindfulness training in schools, talks to Hunter College psychologist Tracy Dennis after a screening of Susan Finley's Changing Minds at Concord High School, which documents an experiment of introducing meditation in a "transfer" school in New York City.

Changing Minds at Concord High School is a movie about at-risk high-school students in Staten Island working with scientists from Mind & Life and Hunter College on a contemplative science experiment in their school. For the last decade, the filmmaker Susan Finley worked with Concord and other "transfer" schools around the city, integrating video production into curriculum to make learning more relevant. During that time it became clear to her that many of the students were suffering from emotional trauma, undiagnosed learning differences, and a history of academic failure. They were in dire need of emotional and educational triage. Working with the scientists, Concord's administration and staff and with Peter Barton, the film's producer, Finley designed this pilot program in order to integrate contemplative science and meditation into the school day. Psychologist Tracy Dennis was one of the scientists working on the program.


The Memorist Nelson Dellis + Cognitive Psychologist Lila Davachi

Sunday, March 17, 6 pm, $80 (only 64 tickets available for each date)

Wednesday, March 20, 7 pm.

The Museum as Memory Palace: Memory is another form of illusion but also a tool to navigate the construct of time. Test your ability to retain and recall information you learned in one hour with US Memory Champion Nelson Dellis. You will need an imagination and a keen sense of adventure, but you have to leave pencil, paper, smart phone, and other current aides memoirs behind.

Do you want to be able to remember names at parties? Or where you left your car keys? Or memorize The Wasteland? Attend this training by US Memory Champion Nelson Dellis who will convert the whole museum into a memory palace, a powerful mental device that the ancient Greeks employed to remember oratory as well as shopping lists. Employing exotic fragrances to help anchor your memorization and magical illusions to test them, this will be unlike any other museum experience you have ever had.

The Brainwave series will screen two feature-length documentary films:

High Ground, 2012, USA, Michael Brown, 92 min.

Eleven veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan join an expedition to climb the 20,000 foot Himalayan giant Mount Lobuche. With blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer and a team of Everest

summiters as their guides, they set out on an emotional and gripping climb to reach the top in an attempt to heal the psychological and physical wounds of the longest war in US history. Representing nearly every branch of the military, the veterans and a Gold Star Mom who joins their trek bring humor and deep emotion to this heroes' journey captured with breathtaking, vertigo-inducing cinematography by three-time Emmy winner, director Michael Brown. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with a neurologist or psychologist specializing in medical conditions common in the aftermath of modern warfare, including PTSD, phantom limb pain, and other injuries.


Saturday, February 9, 6:00 pm

Friday, February 15, 6:30 pm

Saturday, February 16, 3:00 pm

Sunday, February 17, 3:00 pm

Other dates TBA

Free the Mind, 2012, Phie Ambo, Denmark, 76 min.

US premiere, Friday, May 3, with Richard Davidson, 9:30 pm $20

Professor Richard Davidson is one of the world's leading researchers on the human brain. Using as test cases a 5-year old suffering from ADHD and two veterans suffering from PTSD, he sets out to discover if, and how, it is possible to physically change the brain using only the power of thought to help free these people from their miserable existences and help them lead ordinary lives. Professor Davidson will participate in the post-premiere screening discussion on May 3.

Additional screening dates include:

Saturday, May 4, 1:30 & 4:00 pm $15

Sunday, May 5, 1:30 & 4:00 pm $15

Monday, May 6, 3:00 pm $15

Wednesday, May 8, 7:00 pm $15

Thursday, May 9, 3:00 pm$15

Friday, May 10, 9:30 pm $15

Lunch Matters Film Series

The weekly Lunch Matters program on Wednesdays will showcase filmed highlights from the first five years of Brainwave. Wednesdays at 1:00 pm, tickets are $10 or free for museum members.

February 20

The Compass of Pleasure
Neuroscientist David J. Linden explains how pleasure affects us at the most fundamental level: in our brain. The master chocolatier Jacques Torres provides the audience with samples of his most mouthwatering selections to allow participants to experience pleasure while the process itself is being discussed.

February 27

The Dreams of Amy Tan
Amy Tan's books and stories have included ideas, breakthroughs, and whole narratives unleashed during dreams. She believes that her creativity relates to a free-form combination of memory, emotion, and sensory synesthesia leading to metaphors and narrative paths. She discusses the effect of dreams on creativity with Harvard clinical psychologist and dream researcher Deirdre Barrett.

March 6

Mindfulness, Meditation, and Memory

A neuropsychologist and a Tibetan Lama come together to discuss two very different perceptions of the role of memory. Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche claims memory is based on insecurity. Marsha Lucas on the other hand, describes memory as identity.

March 13

Why does Movement Move us?
One of America's greatest living choreographers, Mark Morris, explores how the brain responds to dance and motion with the Wellesley College neurologist Bevil Conway.

March 20

The Assassin of My Dreams
Punk band original and (out) spoken-word artist Henry Rollins hunts down the assassin of his dreams with neuroscientist David Eagleman.

March 27

The Geography of Bliss
Journalist Eric Weiner discusses the findings in his book, The Geography of Bliss, with neuropsychologist Emma Seppala on the quest for happiness across cultures.

Cabaret Cinema

The many cinematic examples of deceit, mistaken identity, and sleight of hand are pointed out by mind scientists in this classic film series.

Fridays at 9:30pm

Free with a $7 bar minimum

Rubin members may reserve tickets in advance. More information at

Confirmed screenings include:

February 1

Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz
Introduced by psychologist William Braun

February 8

Ingmar Bergman's The Magician

Introduced by vision scientist Ben Backus

February 15

Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest

February 22

David Lean / Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit

March 1

Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon

Introduced by neuroscientist John J. Sakon

March 8

Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby

Introduced by neuroscientist Ioana Carcea

March 15

Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso

Introduced by neurologist Moran Cerf

March 22

Louis Malle's Black Moon

March 29

Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard

March 29

Robert Hamer'sKind Hearts and Coronets

April 5

John Huston's Key Largo

Introduced by neuroscientist Daniela Schiller

April 19

Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron

Introduced by neuroscientist Travis Riddle

April 26

Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo

The Rubin Museum creates an immersive environment for experiencing the art and culture of Himalayan Asia and develops programming that enables visitors to make personal connections to their contemporary lives. The only museum in the U.S. dedicated to the Himalayan region, the Rubin holds outstanding collections of Tibetan, Nepalese, Mongolian, and Bhutanese art, and provides a bridge to the cultures of the region. Dedicated to providing a multidimensional experience, the Rubin engages its visitors in a spectrum of exhibitions, dialogues, films, performances, and educational programs that explore Himalayan Asia through a range of artistic, cultural, religious, and traditional contexts and perspectives. Its intimate scale facilitates both quiet contemplation and direct and active engagement. Café Serai and the shop are also inspired by the region's varied cultures and serve as an extension of the Museum's gallery experience. For more information, including hours, visit

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