A Cross Word

2004, University of Texas at Austin, Performance Art, Prof. Kristin Lucas

(click to see film if you got here through a search and not the gallery)

Artistically, I saw this as an illustration of the art of the brain's retrieval method, putting cognitive function on display as if in a gallery. Let me explain: having just gotten into crosswords that year, I was very proud of the fact that I was already always able to do the Monday-Wednesday New York Times puzzles. One very interesting thing I'd noticed while becoming good at them was how one's brain changes to accommodate the repeated task of fetching random words when it was otherwise unused to doing so. In the beginning, I could barely get one or two words in the puzzles. After a while though, (besides getting used to the way the questions were phrased and common words used as filler), I found my brain literally responding differently to these requests than it used to. Suddenly, it was as if I had a little gnome in my head that went to work the moment I'd read the question, swiftly sifting through the 'filing cabinets' in my brain and proudly thrusting his arm into the air, holding the bit of info I needed, all before I could consciously ponder what the clue meant! Thanks to this, I was usually able to complete the puzzles in merely the time it took to physically fill them out. I found this fascinating, so I decided to fill out a puzzle (totally unaware of its contents beforehand), in front of the class on an overhead projector, while narrating my thought process out loud. It actually took longer to do out loud than it usually did, raising my time from twelve minutes to twenty, but sure enough, I did the whole thing for them, right there!