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Post-nuclear environments and non-anthropocentric art (2020)

Post-nuclear World War II art is generally anthropocentric, documenting and commemorating consequences of nuclear warfare. It cautions the future for the devastation of that particular past. Atomic power has, since the mid-20th century, been applied widely in ways other than for warfare. Germane to this is the risk of accidental nuclear malfunction. Compared with the aftermath of the atomic detonations in Japan in 1945, recent atomic explosions at Chernobyl (situated in the Ukraine and Belarus), as well as Fukushima in Japan, left various man-made structures as well as large tracts of the natural environment surrounding the nuclear plants reasonably intact. This has offered researchers a unique opportunity to observe and document post-nuclear environments. Japanese art photographers Masamichi Kagaya, Shimpei Takeda and Yoi Kawakubo, scientifically informed by events in such doomed ecosystems, are using post-nuclear events as reference and inspiration to produce works that make the invisibility of radioactivity visible by being more inclusive of species other than humans, inclining towards non-anthropocentric, post-nuclear art.

Key words: post-nuclear environments, post-nuclear art, non-anthropocentric art, Masamichi Kagaya, Shimpei Takeda, Yoi Kawakubo

Download pdf:Post-nuclear environments and non-anthropocentric art. SAJAH Vol 35(2): 227-255.

Neuroimaging as contributor to understanding creativity (2018)

Data emerging from neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and neuroelectric techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) contribute to, and often disprove, existing knowledge about creativity. This article explains why neural and cognitive aspects of brain states and brain processing will become germane to any future explanation of creativity.

Key words: creativity, neuroimaging, neural and cognitive processes

Download pdf:Neuroimaging as contributor to understanding creativity. SAJAH Vol 33(3): 1-12.

Identifying aesthetic experience (2018)

Aesthetic experience is a combined psychological, neurological, affective phenomenon. Aesthetic experience is not necessarily reducible to positive hedonic tone or positive emotions. It is known to occur when objects or events lose their pragmatic meaning and transcend into a novel symbolic reality. Neuroimaging studies have revealed that distinct cortical areas are activated when observers focus on the pragmatic or aesthetic aspects of art, leading aesthetic experience to be associated with other exceptional brain states such as flow. This article aims to assist art scholars, aficionados or practitioners to identify their own aesthetic experience, by discussing factors that express it.

Key words: pragmatic and symbolic meaning, subject-object aesthetic experience, neuroimaging.

Download pdf:Identifying aesthetic experience. SAJAH Vol 33(4): 1-12.

The Capability Approach as a foundation for craft self-help enterprises in South Africa (2017)

Many rural craft initiatives in South Africa have as their core objective the alleviation of poverty. A popular assumption is that personal income or wealth is the primary solution to alter social deprivation. Economist and philosopher Amartya Sen argues that capabilities refer to the ability to choose a life one has reason to value. Capability deprivation minimises the choices people can make – poverty, thus, is reframed as a form of capability deprivation. What the capability perspective does in poverty analysis is to enhance the understanding of the nature and causes of poverty and deprivation by shifting primary attention away from means (such as income) to ends that people have reason to pursue, and, correspondingly, to the substantive freedoms to be able to achieve these ends. This article discusses how income poverty is but one of various capability deprivations which curtail the success of some craft self-help enterprises. Furthermore, it suggests a way to evaluate how well people are doing – be it an enterprise or an individual, which ideally would result in an interaction of a rise in standards of living and an improvement in the quality of life.

Key words: deprivation, capability approach, substantive freedoms, evaluation

Download pdf:The Capability Approach as a foundation for craft self-help enterprises in South Africa. SAJAH Vol 32(2): 212-223.

The restructuring of temporality during art making (2016)

Experienced time, neural time and clock time are not the same. Temporality may be restructured due to psychopathologic experiences resulting in the perception that time may speed up or slow down, before the living present has been appropriated by reflection. There is growing evidence that the awareness of linear time has the ability to become distorted when, during art making, artists experience the brain state referred to as flow, during which psychic energy is focused on the unfolding present, with a general absence of rumination associated with past or future events. From a neuroscientific point of reference flow necessitates a state of transient (short of duration) hypo- (unusually low) frontality (anterior part of each cerebral hemisphere, in front of the central sulcus). Flow has been associated with a (form of) altered state of consciousness, which may share, amongst others, characteristics such as time distortions, attention, perception, imagery and fantasy. Through the use of electroencephalography and interviews, this paper links selected artists’ restructuring of temporality with concepts of human consciousness and time perception

Key words: art making, flow, restructuring temporality, transient hypofrontality, time perception.

Download pdf:The restructuring of temporality during art making. SAJAH Vol 31(2): 187-204.

Shared identities of five visual artists (2014)

In general the production and appreciation of visual art has been considered to be a cultural phenomenon, but lately the possibility of a biological, leading on to a neuroscientific basis, for making art has been considered. This article investigates the brain wave activity of five prominent Pretoria artists, during the act of making art.

Download pdf:Shared identities of five visual artists. SAJAH Vol 29(3): 138-155

Reflecting on the art making process (2012)

This article reports on a mixed method study of painting and drawing activities of professional artists utilizing semi-structured interviews documenting affective states. The experiential data was supplemented with empirical data utilizing experiments. In experiential data gathering, due to many complex layers of processing, people often intellectualise or censor their responses between an emotional reaction and a verbal report. In this study the empirical assessment options of skin conductance, peripheral skin temperature, respiration and heart rate (blood-volume-pulse) measured physiological reactions whilst making art. The rationale for conducting such empirical assessments is to establish whether a correlation can be found between artists’ affective descriptions of the art making experience and physiological responses of participating artists.

Download pdf:Reflecting on the art making process: SAJAH Vol 27(2) 2012: 297-312

Dress and violence: women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid being raped (2011)

Dress is integral to visual culture. Judges, cultural vigilantes and in some cases, females themselves, have expressed or supported the notion that a woman deserves to be violated for her choice of dress. Such choice of dress need not necessarily be deemed risqué - violence towards women has been justified in incidents where women have worn short skirts, trousers, and even the traditional kanga. It emerges that such punitive practices take place predominantly in patriarchal, conservative communities, said to be influenced by cultural values. Various facets of South African law cause tension in executing the law to protect victims of, for example rape, as there are conflicting approaches to women’s rights under customary law, the constitution and international human rights laws. This article aims to expand understanding of a complex and serious issue, namely, the perceived right to violate women due to their choice of dress – in this case the art – and the laws that are in place to protect victims.

Download pdf: Dress and violence: women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid being raped: SAJAH Vol 26(1) 2011: 121-135

Creativity, the flow state and brain function (2010)

There are various concepts of optimal human functioning such as creativity, flow, peak experience and self-actualization. With suggestions that creativity and flow are interrelated, and possibly even interchangeable, at first glance the metaphor of flow and the concept of creativity seem to be entangled. Rich descriptions of creativity and the flow experience exist, especially in psychological literature, yet very little is understood of the brain mechanisms that govern such human functioning. This article investigates flow, creativity, and the brain mechanisms that elicit such unusual human functioning, and what brain processes ground these psychological constructs. The intention is to distinguish the concept of flow from creativity, and expand the heuristic understanding and value of flow within the creative disciplines.

Download pdf: Creativity, the flow state and brain function: SAJAH Vol 25(1) 2010: 141-151


  • 2021: In Conversation with Colour Symphony, 5 March to 5 September, Rupert Museum, Graaff-Reinet. Download pdf: In Conversation with Colour Symphony
  • 2018: Ancestry/ Afstamming, Andreas Schönfeldt, Modern Art Projects South Africa. Download pdf: Ancestry Afstamming Andreas Schönfeldt
  • 2017: Voorvaderlike Kastyding: Ancestral Flagellation, The work of Andreas Schönfeldt, Fried Contemporary Gallery, Pretoria. Download pdf: Voorvaderlike Kastyding Ancestral Flagellation The work of Andreas Schönfeldt
  • 2017: chaosdivine, The work of Eric Duplan, Fried Contemporary Gallery, Pretoria.


    • 2020. Post-nuclear environments as inspiration for non-anthropocentric art. 14th National Conference of the South African Journal of Art History, "The future of the past", Nelson Mandela University, South Africa, 25-27 September.
    • 2018. Transition in the visual arts which contributed to rapid progress in understanding creativity: The advent of neuroimaging techniques. 12th National Conference of the Art Historical Work Group of South Africa, “Transition”, Pierneef Theatre, Pretoria, South Africa, 1-2 June.
    • 2017. How are you doing? The 11th National Conference of the South African Journal of Art History, “Craft. Object. People.”, University of Cape Town, 10-11 August.
    • 2016. Hypofrontality and art making. South African Clinical Neuropsychology Association, Waterfall City Hospital, Johannesburg, 29 February.
    • 2016. How the artist seems to ‘just know’. Arts Cluster Embodied Knowledge(s) and Embodied Pedagogies. University of Pretoria, 18 January.
    • 2015. Psychology and neuroscience meet in the sweet spot. 14th European Congress of Psychology, Milan, Italy 7-10 July.
    • 2015. van Heerden, A., Hoffmann, WA.Steinmann CML. & Munro, MMS. Cortical brain wave activity of five professional artists during art making. 6th Neuroscience Day, University of Pretoria, 13 May.
    • 2015. An appraisal of the art-making experience. Art & Science: Empirical methods in Art History, Vienna, 26-27 February. View video.
    • 2014. van Heerden, A. & Munro, M. Shared identities of five visual artists. 8th National Conference, The representation and interpretation of identity: South African Journal of Art History, 19-20 September.
    • 2014. van Heerden, A. & Munro, M. The high and the low of the small and the large: the human body during art making. Laban/Bartenieff body/space/emergence Conference, University of Pretoria, 17-19 January.
    • 2013. The brain, art making and feeling good. Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Research and Innovation Seminar, Faculty of the Arts Campus, Tshwane University of Technology, 5 June.
    • 2013. van Heerden, A. & Munro, M. The brain at play. Neuroscience Day International Conference, University of Pretoria, 9 May.
    • 2012. van Heereden, A & Munro, M. Physiological arousal of professional artists – reflecting on the art making process. Advanced Research Seminar Series, Tshwane University of Technology, 18 September.
    • 2012. van Heereden, A & Munro, M. Physiological arousal of professional artists. 6th National Conference, The human body: The South African Journal of Art History, 25-26 May.
    • 2010. Creativity and flow – perfect ‘headfellows’? Faculty of the Arts Research Showcase, Tshwane University of Technology, 22 September.
    • 2008. Artists and flow: in art, one mystery cannot be explained with another mystery. Faculty of the Arts Advanced Seminar Series, Tshwane University of Technology, 30 October.
    • 2005. van Heerden, A & Grobler, A.T. Utilising consumer behaviour as a parameter for marketing craft products. 4th International Conference on Research and Innovation, Tshwane University of Technology, 2 October.
    • 2003. Poverty is capability deprivation: overcoming this through art design technology. International Symposium: Development that will alleviate poverty, SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, University of Pretoria, 19 June.


    • 2015: Senate Committee for Research and Innovation Institutional Award – Researcher in training
    • 2014: Senate Committee for Research and Innovation Institutional Award – Young Researcher of the Year
    • 2014: Faculty of the Arts Academic Excellence Award – Young Researcher of the Year Merit Award
    • 2000: Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Innovation, Dedication and Excellence
    • 2000: Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Head of Departments