Noxious Sector Projects
312 S. Washington St.
Seattle WA 98104

Doug Jarvis

Minding the Belly Brain

In his book The Philosopher's Stomach, Michel Onfray makes an interesting claim - that knowing what philosophers eat can help us understand the things they say. It's like the adage that "we are what we eat" only taken a step further - as though our stomachs actually do part of our thinking for us, setting the stage for our understanding of the world. Not only are we what we eat, but our minds are too - in some way stimulated in the directions our diet dictates.

There is recent scientific research that validates Onfray's claim - the strange discovery that there are neurons in the belly. These cells, central to the emergence of thought in the human mind, may consequently also be responsible for mindful impact coming from the cortex of the human stomach. In an interesting twist, this is research that suggests the stomach may literally have a mind of its own.

It is this idea that Doug Jarvis has set out to explore

An artist in residence at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria, the artist dedicates his work to the exploration of alternative ways of thinking - perspectives that one might not normally encounter. Among these are the ideas that avatars might be our imaginary friends, ghosts might be an audience for the performance of life, and that our stomachs might be more intelligent than we think.

To test his hypothesis, the artist placed an E.E.G. sensor around his waist - a monitor that measures brainwave activity, whatever form that brain might take. With this technological ritual Jarvis initiates a dialogue with a mind that is his, yet remains unknown except to the machines to which he is connected. Importantly, in this experiment the stomach is the author of the story. And if stomachs have minds of their own, perhaps they also have dreams, imaginations, wishes and prayers - everything needed to tell a tale both compelling and intriguing. And while the details may not be quite clear, the sensors certainly tell a story of some sort, reminding us to mind the belly brain.