The Uses of Paradox
A discussion on brain functions and the arts
Copyright © Garry Kennard 2000
For those of you who are not aware of it I have to inform you that there is a revolution underway. This revolution will affect the way in which we human beings describe ourselves and, through that, the ways in which we relate to each other and the way we organise ourselves. On an even deeper level than the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions this coming change will alter long held and sometimes 'sacred' perceptions of the self. It will change the way we perceive our perceptions. In so doing it will also alter the way we look at and understand art--which is the main theme of my talk.
The revolution I am referring to is arising from recent explorations into the functioning of the brain. Only in the last 15 years or so has it come about that new thought and new technology have, hand in hand, begun to enable us to see into the brain in greater depth than ever before and to discuss in empirical terms subjects once held to be the intuitive realm of art, music and religious revelation. We are now looking at the very building blocks of what we are, the terms with which we describe ourselves--those things which give us our essential sense of identity.
I am going to examine here, first, some of the implications of new thinking about brain functions and then go on to how these systems operate in relation to the creation, criticism and appreciation of works of art. In other words I am going to have a good ramble around these ideas and see what we come up with.
In his book 'Phantoms in the Brain' the neurologist and brain specialist V S Ramachandran talks about certain mechanisms in the brain which allow it to fill in missing information, make generalisations and, where large gaps in sensory input exist, to actually impose objects on the perceptions. The objects dredged up from the memory by the brain and projected onto our perceptions then appear to fit seamlessly into the real world. In the following paragraph he is talking about how the brain deals with seeing a cat's tail sticking out from behind a sofa. He says this -
'The evidence . . . suggests that what we call perception is really the end result of a dynamic interplay between sensory signals and high-level stored information about visual images from the past. Each time anyone of us encounters an object, the visual system begins a constant questioning process. Fragmentary evidence comes in and the higher centres say 'Hmmmm, maybe this is an animal'. Our brains then pose a series of visual questions: as in a twenty questions game. Is it a mammal? A cat? What kind of cat? Tame? Wild? Big? Small? Black, white or tabby? The higher visual centres then project partial 'best fit' answers back to the lower visual areas including the primary visual cortex. In this manner, the impoverished image is progressively worked on and refined (with bits filled in when appropriate). I think that these massive feed forward and feedback projections are in the business of conducting successive iterations that enable us to home in on the closest approximation to the truth. To overstate the argument deliberately, perhaps we are hallucinating all the time and what we call perception is arrived at by simply determining which hallucination best conforms to the current sensory input. But if, as happens in Charles Bonnet syndrome, the brain does not receive confirming visual stimuli, it is free to make up its own reality.'(1)
(Charles Bonnet syndrome, by the way, is a curious disorder in which people with damage to their sight pathways either in the eye or the brain, experience vivid hallucinations that replace the missing visual information. It is an extremely common disorder.) (2)
This capability of the brain to impose what it deems to be a useful reality on a given set of sensory perceptions is an underlying theme of this presentation. I want to describe how this particular brain function is fundamental to our understanding of art and ways in particular that some visual art uses it in making its effects.
There are many examples now of brain function which show conclusively that those solid and unshakeable images of the self we have clung to in the past are not what we presumed them to be. The relationship between what is out there in the physical world and how we describe it to ourselves were once seen to be in some kind of balance. It seems now that that balance has shifted--the weight is now overwhelmingly on the side of the brain--inventing reality and projecting what it needs-- and can get away with--onto an indifferent and in the main unresponsive universe.
2. The screen and the mirror
In the diverse range of ideas which have been used to describe the universe and our place in it something similar would seem to me to happening. If I describe the physical world, reasonably I would think, to be unknowable, incomprehensible and for the most part indifferent to my actually being here, then I am describing what amounts to a blank screen onto which I can project whatever I think is most useful, or that which I most desire to be there for me. This projection is only limited by the information received from measuring the screen--i.e. scientific descriptions of the universe --and in most cases these can be, and often are, ignored anyway. One can see in this the creative scenario which allows world mythologies and religions to come to pass.(3)
I see in the creative arts something that is not only similar to this process but would seem to be an exact enactment of it on a smaller but no less significant scale. The blank canvas, the empty sheet of writing paper, the blank stave or silence itself being not a metaphor but an exact image of the blank universal screen and our filling in of these spaces to be the exact same process--not a metaphor for it, or symbol of it.
So what is going on in this process and what is its significance? What are the desired projections artists have needed to see on this blank screen? What do they need to see in this strange mirror?(4)
I suggest that the many possible answers to these questions revolve around two fundamental desires. One--the need for personal identity and, two, a way of coming to terms with the world. I also suggest that most projections made by human beings contain a combination of these two desires.
Before we follow these trails we need to clarify a particular point. It has become clear that although some systems in the brain are innate and seem fixed it is also becoming clear that many are not fixed and are malleable. The brain continues to develop to greater or lesser degrees throughout life, changing its sequence of synaptic pathways with each new experience of the individual. Even in the imagined case of two human clones the fact of continuing brain development shows that these two creatures by the unavoidable and unique changes in their personal experience would, cannot but, lead to two different personalities. (5)
Bearing this in mind, when we project onto our artists' screens we are therefore telling a unique, unrepeatable and unforeseen story. In this sense every work of art is a self-portrait--a unique set of projections.
Although these projections are unique they do fall into categories--much like books in a shop. There are the equivalents of thrillers, science fiction or historical novels. But also the sets which our projected stories fall into are not necessarily narrative. They manifest themselves in art as images of many kinds--each type corresponding to the particular person's need for identity and, of necessity, each involving a way of dealing with their perceptions of the world. We must remember that while these projections are always personal and related to individual experience and are therefore part of the process of self-description, they reveal themselves in projections of universal and archetypal images or processes. (Whether these are innate or not is a complex question and would need a further essay to examine it in depth).
Some of these images embody certain emotions and sensual experiences that we find pleasant or even ecstatic. For example, the representation, recreation and amplification of sensual and sexual sensations which can act as a hiding place, or at least a holiday resort, from the world. I think that the great tradition of sensuality in French culture is a case in point. From Watteau to the Impressionists and Matisse the over-riding projection is of images of sensual luxury which has been used as an escape from the drudgery and the horror of life. Other, to me more interesting, projections would be of images which, while presenting a fragment of the identity of an individual, engender or stimulate certain processes in the brain which might enable us, not to escape from life by limiting our relation to it, but to engage with the world in as complete a manner as possible.
3. The process of transcendence
I am going to try to describe here just one such archetypal process and see how it might be projected onto, and operate from, the artist's screen. But if I am to limit myself to one description only I might as well take on a large and difficult idea. The idea I have chosen --one which would seem universal in its constant appearance in projected images in art and philosophy and religion in all cultures--is the projection of an image which would stimulate a particular mental process which in turn might lead to a sense of reconciliation with the world--as it is in all its monstrosity. I suggest that this has been the primary purpose of all mythologies, in which I include religions, and their rituals. I am going assume that the making and viewing of some types of art are the same such rituals. The effects made on us by these rituals is produced by the artist playing with such systems of perception and projection described already.
I can assure you that this is no introduction to my text becoming mystical. This is a large subject open to many interpretations, but I need to point out that my thoughts on this are expressed in the light of other neurological studies which have shown quite clearly that the emotional 'state' of a person, from the blackest despair to hysterical laughter, can now be quite easily switched on and off by stimulating various centers in the brain.(6) And that among those centres is one which can produce a feeling of ecstacy or rapture in which the subjects describe a wondrous feeling of completeness, see an unsuspected significance in all things, or experience the presence of whatever God they may identify with in all things. A similar feeling is often described by epileptics at the moment of or just before they are taken by a seizure. Dostoevsky, himself an epileptic, describes this feeling in great detail in The Idiot and talks at length about the philosophical questions this presented to his character Prince Myshkin.(7) The centre of this emotion is to be found in the temporal lobe of the brain and it is being shown that people with ever-so slightly larger temporal lobes than usual are much more susceptible to religious fervour and experience than others. The research into this has only just begun but one can see that the implications are enormous, especially considering such accepted notions as that of the Prophet Mohamet being epileptic.
For my purposes here I will define this reconciliation I mentioned as the perceiving of the world as it is and the coming to terms with it. To learn to accept the world and reject it at the same time. To learn how 'to care and not to care'. This would seem to be a very desirable process for human beings. One only has to take a cursory glance around the world to see that to human sensibility, human values, it is indeed monstrous. I mean here the existence of death, pain, loss, injustice and the indifference of nature to the things which human beings most care about. To overcome or to come to terms with the monstrosity of the world would seem to be a prerequisite to existing in it and human beings have tried several paths to achieve this state.
One path, which I will not go into here, is to become an active part of the monstrous world in both in ritual and reality and to enact those very monstrous things one fears and is horrified by but cannot avoid, thereby becoming one with it. The forces of the world would seem so powerful that to placate them one must not argue but run with them and become part of the given monstrosity. This might be something akin to practising cannibalism in one culture or joining a conservative political party in another.
Another way, and this is what I am going to look at here, is to attempt to see the world as it is but to become at the same time distanced from it and the emotions it engenders and thereby come to terms with it. This form of coming to terms with the world I will call an accepting transcendence and I will suggest that the practice of certain types of projection both onto the physical world and onto that parallel world of art can in some circumstances help us to do this. Before I describe some of those ways this can happen I need to digress here slightly but will soon get back onto my main road.
4. Opening the windows of perception
I want to look at the case of autism for the moment and in particular the autistic savants.(5) People with autism suffer from a particular disruption to the brain which deprives them of the socialising and communicating means to take part in any real sense in human society. They cannot exist without a great deal of help from their fellow creatures. In some cases though, it confers on a few of them some extraordinary abilities. These few are known as autistic savants. (We must remember that the savant syndrome only occurs in about 10% of autistic sufferers).
At very early ages some savants display phenomenal ability in mathematical calculation in extraordinarily specific fields. One boy could tell the time of day to the exact second without looking at a watch. Another could generate an eight digit prime number with ease in a second or two. Some can, on one hearing, reproduce a Chopin waltz note perfect. Others can accurately draw an extremely complex scene--say the New York skyline--after one brief look.
What is going on here? It would seem that those functions which in the average head enable us to filter and generalise the input and output in projections to and from our brains, are in a sense completely lacking in the autistic sufferer. Those socialising mechanisms whereby we allow ourselves to interact, make intelligent guesses and gloss over what we might think of as unnecessary detail and fill in as we need, do not exist. It is as if there is no filter between the autistic sensory input and the brains' sorting agents. In the autistic savant the lack of these filters has allowed an uninterrupted flow between the physical world and the brains primitive receptors both in input and output. I am not suggesting what is produced is art--the ingestion and regurgitation of sensory input does not transform or communicate anything. One's reflection in a mirror is not art--unless of course you are Oscar Wilde or Tony Blair.
But keeping the idea of unmixed perception of the world in mind, let me get back to my thought that one of the purposes of art is to help us towards an acceptance of the world as it is and, by accepting it, to transcend it. Of course the first objection to this is--having seen how our brain distorts the world or imposes projections and reflections on it--how can we see the world as it is? And if we could how would this help us towards transcendence?
Perhaps one way would be to strip away those mechanisms of distortion and see the world in part as the autistic savant sees it. This would mean not only tearing down the social niceties and manners of peer groupings, as well as accepted reactions to things, but also making an attempt to approach and disturb the unconscious filters, barriers and means of projection deep in the brain. I think art, by certain techniques, can do this. In this sense the work of art becomes similar to the Koan of zen Buddhism--those incomprehensible questions which the adept is told to contemplate in their search for enlightenment. The famous 'What is the sound of one hand clapping?' is a perfect example. I think that what happens here is that the brain is presented with something it cannot deal with, a paradox, and in the small silence that ensues while it wrestles with this surreality--in that silence or shutting down of the logical, filtering and projecting systems in the brain --the whole world rushes in as it is--as it were without comment from the occupied grey matter. It's as if while the brain was scratching its head we suddenly see a chair as a chair and the sky as the sky without intervening distorting mirrors. The result of this is a distancing of the perception from the emotional reaction to it. And in this distancing one sees clearly, at the same time, the 'just-so' world and the responding self. What we would seem to be doing here is to be introducing a third eye--a dispassionate witness within the brain --a super-superego. This seems to me to be part of the process which leads to what in other cultures has been termed enlightenment and which we might term awareness in existence. This state, for me at any rate, is probably the best we can hope for in our lives and an object worth pursuing. This sudden apprehension can initially be only fleeting but I am sure that by practice one might retain the situation for progressively longer periods.
I also think that in western art this strange ability to cleanse the windows of perception, has been achieved in many works. It is the basis of what I see as the necessarily iconoclastic nature of art. I will give two examples that will hint at some techniques by which this has been achieved. As I have indicated I think that, as in the koan, the way to break through these barriers is to confuse the brain by diversionary tactics, but this must be done with great subtlety or the brain will not be fooled and cling to its proven way of dealing with both the world and oneself.
Before I go into details I want to reinforce my argument by going back a little. The artist is attempting to make on object which displays an expression of personal identity either by a narrative description of their perceptions or by creating an object which might help them to come to terms with their existence. And that these attempts are made through the creation of works of art which make their effects on the nervous system by playing with and using those brain functions and systems described earlier, and manifest themselves in archetypal images and processes.
5. Rembrandt and Cézanne
My first example is Rembrandt's late self-portraits.(7) In particular pictures the viewer is again--as in the koan--presented with a paradox. On the flat surface of the canvas Rembrandt has presented a static image of a human being. It is obvious it is not a real human being--it is two-dimensional, is hanging half way up a wall and is motionless. Or is it? In Rembrandt's use of oil paint he builds an extraordinarily surrealistic feel of moving flesh. Unlike real flesh it seems to writhe on the skull. Rembrandt's bravura use of oil paint presents us with an extraordinary paradox. It gives the brain an impression of the actual movement in space of a static object. The image seems to be eternally turning towards us but always remaining where it is. Ally, then, this confusion to the emotional impact of the facial expression and the extreme drama of the lighting and you have a series of experiences the brain cannot readily cope within its normal day to day configurations. It becomes confused not only in its perception of the object but in its emotional response to the phantom figure before it. This can produce an overwhelming feeling of direct contact not only with this dramatic image of a human being in particular but the world in general. And the method of producing this effect--the confusion of the brain--is in seeing two extremes of experience, two irreconcilable things at once--stillness and movement in the same object.
My second example introduces a further refinement. This has been achieved by Paul Cézanne.(8) Cézanne, certainly in his later paintings, used a different technique to achieve the same end as Rembrandt--the presentation of movement in a still object. In Cézanne's case he also managed to invoke a further paradox. In many of the pictures and it is particularly noticeable in the still lives--he presents us with more than one view of an object--but within the same image of the object. In the most obvious examples one is shown the profile of a jar but also its round top as if we were looking both from the side and looking down on it. But so seamlessly is this achieved that again the brain becomes confused and tries over and over to square this impossible circle. Later attempts to do this sort thing by the cubists seem to miss the point to me. They overstated the case and no-one is fooled. In Cézanne the object, in its shimmering existence, is not only static and in motion--it is also seemingly moving through time. Again the impossibility of this shuts down the normal receptors in the brain and again the world rushes in. In Cézanne's portraits the emotional impact of the human presence is often missing but the transcendent effect is the same. The result of his direction to his wife when she asked how she should pose--'Sit there like an apple'-- is only too evident in the work.
Yet another way of confusing the brain in the presentation of images is by playing with the brains' capacity to fill in gaps. Both Rembrandt and Cézanne used this technique--the technique of leaving things out. When an object is presented which allows the viewer to fill in the gaps left by the artist--deliberately one would hope--the subsequent projection from the viewer's mind into these holes makes them a participant in the creation of the image. The work then has the ability of not only being a projection of the artist's consciousness but also at the same time that of the viewer. This technique, certainly much more common in Chinese and Japanese painting than in the west--combined with those mentioned before make for a powerful mix. In this case not only has the image induced a fracture between perception and emotion--the viewers' own ghosts have been let out to roam around the structure before them. The artist's self portrait becomes a mirror for the viewer.
I believe that this feeling of sensory confusion which I have suggested is presented by the late work of Rembrandt and Cézanne would be, given what has been said above, a necessary ritual gone over again and again by the artists in their common human desire to not only see the world as it is but also to come to terms with it by an accepting transcendence. And this may well have been done unconsciously as an archetypal act--although with these two examples I think they were well aware of what they were doing. In discovering certain techniques in their art they have enabled us to take part in their discoveries and the resultant ecstacy or revelation or even serenity: certainly to take part in the drama of their perceptions and the uniqueness of their personal stories.
I believe this idea of accepting transcendence will become more and more important in our development and understanding of the way in which we work. It is because we are certainly going to be able, are now able, to look dispassionately at our passions that the idea of transcendence, as I have described it, will need to be looked at closely.
With these two examples I have tried to show how a archetypal human desire, in this case the need to accept and transcend the world, could be projected from the brain of the artist onto their blank screen--the canvas. And that this process is parallel to that of other projections made by us all the time onto the physical world, which we hope will enable us to make some kind of sense of it. In other words our constant myth making. In the light of developments in our understanding of the way the brain works we are beginning now to have a clearer idea of how these projections are formed and what their significance is to the identity of the individual. It also presents us with new perspectives on old problems. We are close to a time when, for example, the destructive nature of racism will no longer be seen as a political or historical problem, but a neurological one.
6. Creating the self
Let me try to sum up my thoughts on what has gone before. I believe that the basic need of human beings, and I would stick my neck out and say above all other needs - including food and sex - is a sense of self - of personal identity. Without this self-image we cannot exist meaningfully in the world - that is, not at all. The craving for and quest for identity can lead us at either extreme to the greatest fulfilment available to us in life or to utter catastrophe. It all depends on the choice of identity we choose or have thrust upon us.
We declare our sense of self, our identity, by a constant telling of stories about ourselves. The cause of so much chatter in the world is not the passing of information but the telling of our own stories. The basic units of currency in these stories are our perceptions of our emotional reactions to the people, situations and things we encounter in our lives and the sets of desires, beliefs and tastes we erect around these emotions in order to qualify and attempt to deal with them. It is these stories, these attempts to define our personal identity and come to terms with our existence, that we project onto our screens.
People may feel that some of the ideas presented here will destroy the vitality, wonderment and authority of personal emotion and dissipate our sense of identity. Well--its a difficult problem. I believe that what we are faced with now is not a loss of unique identity but a re-assessment of what identity means. The tools for building ourselves are being put into our own hands. Our emotional response to life and the moral decisions we make based on those responses are being given over to our own guardianship. We may no longer be the victim or puppet of our emotions but their director. It is in the exploration of this new vision of identity that I see a glimpse of what must eventually come--the elusive marriage between art and science.
My first remarks on the progress of enquiries into brain function indicate to me that the time is not far distant when the artist and scientist join forces in a true partnership of common interest, and work in the same areas of exploration. This field is the exploration of our perceptions and, through those, the ways in which we describe ourselves. Perhaps the question most urgent at the bottom of all this is 'What is the basis of our actions?' The truths that are being revealed should liberate us from old, outworn, damaging and often imposed self-images. We are being handed the power not only to create ourselves but to recreate ourselves --and that over and over. The work of the artist/scientist of the future should be to consolidate that liberty, to insist on the complexity of things, confirm the uniqueness of the individual and above all to invent relevant stories for all of us to use in the journey to self-consciousness.
1 V. S. Ramachandran, with Sandra Blakeslee, Phantoms in the Brain (New York: William Morrow, 1998), 112. This very accessible book contains an enormous bibliography for this kind of study.
2 Details of Charles Bonnet syndrome may be found on the web site of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, UK: http://www.rnib.org.uk. For a review of the literature on this syndrome, see U. Dlugon, "Charles Bonnet Syndrome," Psychiatri-Polski 34.2 (2000 March-April): 307-16. Since the article is in Polish, I quote the English abstract:
The article reviews the current literature on Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS), offers specific criteria to define this syndrome, evaluates its prevalence, analyses the possible associated ophthalmic and sociodemographic factors, suggests future work in this area. Despite the recent interest in CBS in contemporary medical literature, a universal definition of this entity has not been fully established yet. The syndrome is usually characterised by presence of vivid and complex visual hallucinations, which are recognised as unreal and occur in the absence of any other psychiatric symptoms. Therefore there are suggestions that the phenomena should be best described by the term 'pseudohallucinations' or 'parahallucinations'. Some researchers suggest that isolated visual hallucinations in older adults may be an indication of early stages of dementia. Contrary to what was considered for a long time, the syndrome seems to occur rather frequently. Recent findings support association of CBS with sensory deprivation and advanced age. CBS should be considered as a diagnosis in patients who complain of hallucinations and who meet the defined diagnostic criteria. There is no proven treatment, but many patients will benefit from reassurance that their hallucinations do not imply mental illness.
3 The issue of the origin of the projections mentioned here is a large subject. Joseph Campbell has some fascinating things to say about 'inherited images', 'innate releasing mechanisms' and 'supernormal sign stimuli'. All these offer clues as to the origins of preferred or stimulating images which humans and other animals use to make meaningful maps of the world they find themselves in. The interaction of these innate systems and the remembered experiences of the individual would seem a reasonable brew from which the projected images in art, religion and other areas would arise. See Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology (New York: Viking Press, 1959), particularly the earlier chapters.
4 This idea I found to be wonderfully imagined by a publicity clip from the French cultural TV channel 'Arte'. Before a feature film is shown a strange image appears. It is of a beautiful woman with a silver face. Her head had been semi-transformed into a film projector. As the reels above her head turned, the film was projected out from her right eye. She held a small screen up in front of her face. The film, presumably originating from inside her head, was projected onto the screen. Her left eye watched it intently. This is precisely the image required to imagine the universe in front of us as both screen and mirror.
5 Gerald Edelman, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire (New York: Basic Books; London: Penguin Press, 1992) provides clear diagrams but less clear text on structures in the brain. The book includes explanations of 'global mapping' systems in the brain which continually update with experience, plus a tortuous but rewarding exposition of the philosophical implications of these and other 'cerebral' matters.
6 In London, 16 January 2000, Rita Carter (author of Mapping the Mind, 1998) described the switching on and off of emotions before the Ethical Society (Ethical Record 105.2 [Feb 2000]). Carter gave examples of patients having parts of their brains accidentally stimulated while having cerebral surgery and the resultant emotional reactions. A woman at Pitié-Salpetrière Hospital in Paris, having her brain electronically probed during an attempted treatment for Parkinson's disease, while fully conscious, suddenly fell into an profound depression saying she wanted to die. She had no history of depression and immediately the probe was removed, she became her normal self. The following day, that area of her brain was again stimulated, and again she began to utter cries of despair. When the probe was used on the same tissue with the current switched off there was no reaction, even though she had been told the current was on. Bejjani, B. P., et al., "Transient acute depression induced by high-frequency deep-brain stimulation" (see comments), New England Journal of Medicine 340.19 (May 13, 1999): 1476-80. Carter gave a second example: a woman, having her cortex probed in an attempt to find the focal point of her epileptic seizures, started to laugh when the surgeons touched a particular area of the brain. When asked why she was laughing she said 'You guys--standing around--you're so funny!' Later when the spot was touched again, she again laughed. Pointing to an ordinary drawing of a horse on the wall and almost falling off the bed in hysterical laughter she said, 'The horse--it's so--funny!' Fried, I., et al., "Electric current stimulates laughter" (letter), Nature, 391 (February 12, 1998): 666-8, 650. V. S. Ramachandran discusses this phenomenon and imagines a piece of apparatus called a 'transcranial magnetic stimulator.' He has some fun with the device, as well as discussing seriously its implications. "God and the Limbic System," Phantoms in the Brain, n. 1.
7 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot, Part 2, ch. 5.
8 Autism can be explored on the web site of the National Autism Society at http://www.autism-society.org. The North Carolina branch of the National Autism Society provides a good book list at http://www.autismsociety-nc.org.
9 Rembrandt: Self portrait with beret and turned-up collar. 1659. Oil on canvas 84.4 x 66 cm. Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington. One can look at the painting at http://www.nga.gov/cgi-bin/pimage?82+0+0. Look particularly at the image that gives a detail of the face.
10 Paul Cézanne: Nature mort à la commode. 1883-1887. Oil on canvas 73.3 x 90.2 cm. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Neue Pinakothek, Munich. One can look at the painting at http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/Cézanne/sl. In general, examples of the work of Rembrandt, Cézanne and many other artists that illustrate my point about paradoxical vision can be found at the web site of the Web Museum (Paris) at http://www.ibiblio.org/wm. This site also gives biographical details and other information.
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