The super­nor­mal is an artist’s enquiry into the bio­lo­gic­al ori­gins and the ‘reduc­tion­ist­ic approach’ of art. It is a research and book pro­ject by inter­dis­cip­lin­ary artist Arnold Hoo­ger­werf, and star­ted out as part of a research fel­low­ship at the Neth­er­lands Insti­tute of Advanced Study (NIAS), offered by the KNAW and the Akademie van Kun­sten. This web­site is an accom­pa­ny­ing col­lec­tion of texts, images, links and thoughts on the same subject.

The title of this pro­ject is a ref­er­ence to the super­nor­mal stim­u­lus, a concept by Dutch bio­lo­gist and Nobel Prize laur­eate Niko Tin­ber­gen (1907–1988). Time and again, this concept is being ref­er­enced by art his­tor­i­ans, neur­os­cient­ists and evol­u­tion­ary psy­cho­lo­gists to shine light on the bio­lo­gic­al nature of art and the aes­thet­ic experience.

Apart from doing more research on the effects of Niko Tinbergen’s concept of the super­nor­mal stim­u­lus on human beha­viour in gen­er­al,  Arnold Hoo­ger­werf will be focus­ing on the implic­a­tions of this kind of sci­entif­ic know­ledge on art, art the­ory and art edu­ca­tion. To what extent can the super­nor­mal stim­u­lus (and sim­il­ar sci­entif­ic con­cepts) be of use for a bet­ter under­stand­ing of one the biggest mys­ter­ies of human beha­viour; art and cre­ativ­ity? In how far is the some­times heavy debate on this mat­ter exem­plary for the alleged divide between the reduc­tion­ist­ic nat­ur­al sci­ences and the human­ist­ic social sci­ences? And, if ‘cul­ture’ indeed increas­ingly becomes an aspect of ‘nature’, how will this affect the arts and the artists of the 21st century?


The out­come of all research will hope­fully be pub­lished in an illus­trated book (in cooper­a­tion with Jap Sam Books).