VSAC 2019: Visual Science of Art Conference 2019

VSAC 2019: Visual Science of Art Conference 2019
Leuven, Belgium, August 21-24, 2019

Dear colleagues,
It is my pleasure to announce the details regarding this year’s edition of VSAC, incl. the preliminary program and the call for submissions.

Call for submissions

The 7th edition of the Visual Science of Art Conference (VSAC) is an interdisciplinary conference intended to bring together vision scientists and visual artists to discuss joint interests in how vision works and how it affects the visual pleasures we get from art and images. VSAC started as a satellite meeting to the European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP), but over the years it has gained its own flavor and dynamics. Special effort will be made to also attract academics from disciplines other than vision science (e.g. art history, visual studies, cultural studies, philosophy of art, computer graphics, biology, physics, …) as well as established and young artists and art students. We have added a large number of special events to facilitate cross-talks between artists and scientists (e.g., meet & greet, tutorials, integrated symposia, workshops, arts-science dialogues, and an extensive exhibition program.

For more information on VSAC 2019, visit https://www.vsac2019.org/ .

Submission Guidelines

Everyone who wishes to present at VSAC will first need to be registered. Information about registration can be found on the conference website.
The word limit for all abstracts is 250 words. Supplementary material can be uploaded as a PDF (possibly including links to websites, movies, …).
Participants can be the first author of only one abstract of the same submission type.

All accepted abstracts will be published as conference proceedings in the journal Art & Perception (ISSN: 2213-4905). A special issue with a selection of full papers derived from the conference will also be considered.

The following submission types are possible:

Scientific contributions, describing progress in an empirical study on a scientific topic at the intersection between visual science and art. A solid review of a relevant body of scientific literature or a report of substantial progress in a theoretical line of work is also possible.

Artistic contributions, usually in the form of an original piece of visual art such as a painting, lithograph, etching, graphic design, photograph, film, sculpture, digital artwork, cross-media artwork, installation …

Art-Science dialogues, taking the form of a joint submission between a scientist and an artist, ideally presenting work resulting from a close collaboration.

Important dates

The conference will be held in Leuven (Belgium) on August 22-24, 2019.
The deadline for abstract submissions is May 15, 2019, 23:59 CET (i.e., UTC + 1h).
A notification of decision will be provided to first authors by June 15, 2019.


VSAC 2019 topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Visual art
  • Visual perception of art
  • Empirical aesthetics (psycho-aesthetics, neuro-aesthetics)
  • Art history relevant to visual science of art
  • Visual studies relevant to visual science of art
  • Philosophy of art relevant to visual science of art
  • Computer graphics relevant to visual science of art

Submission types

There are 4 types of submissions.

1. TALK preferred

Standard talks are limited to 15 min (12 min talk + 3 min Q&A). Because we can probably not accommodate all requested talks, authors submitting in this category are assumed to be willing to present a poster in case their abstract is not accepted for a talk. Selection is by the Scientific Committee, based on abstract reviews by an official Abstract Review Committee (consisting of a mixture of our own staff, faculty and postdocs, as well as regular reviewers of previous VSAC editions). Selections will be based on the scientific quality of submissions (original research, conducted according to the best methodological standards, interesting findings and discussion) as well as thematic coherence of the session. In addition, we aim to balance age, gender and geographic distribution.

2. POSTER only

Posters are valued as highly as short talks because they are better suited for in-depth discussion and receiving feedback on ongoing research. They will receive sufficient time and space in the program to get the attention they deserve. Poster sessions will be preceded by 1 min blitz presentations in the main lecture hall. Selection is by the Scientific Committee, based on abstract reviews by an official Abstract Review Committee (consisting of a mixture of our own staff, faculty and postdocs, as well as regular reviewers of previous VSAC editions). Selection criteria will be sufficient scientific quality and fit with the aims and scope of the conference. If the budget allows for it, we will provide Best Poster Awards for presenting PhD students (e.g., 1 per session). Award criteria will be scientific quality (original research, conducted according to the best methodological standards, interesting findings and discussion) as well as poster layout (visual efficiency and elegance). Selection will be done by an ad hoc Poster Award Committee consisting of a subset of the Abstract Review Committee.

3. ART contribution

We invite a number of established artists to present their work at VSAC. We have selected several great venues, ideally suited for presentation of artwork, all within walking distance from the city center and from STUK (https://www.stuk.be/), the main venue for the scientific program. We will include a short description of the invited artists and art works on the VSAC website as soon as possible. In addition, we invite art contributions through a call for submissions, which is open to established as well as emerging artists. All submissions consist of a short description of the nature of the work and why this would be interesting to VSAC attendees. If artists have specific topics or questions they want to discuss with other artists and scientists during the meeting, they can add these here as well.

In addition, artists can upload a PDF with supplemental material of their art work (e.g., portfolio, website, images or video material).

Finally, artists can specify the desired presentation circumstances in terms of required space, lighting, …

Artworks will be selected based on their quality and fit with the overall aims and scope of the conference, as well as the fit with the other art works presented jointly. The team responsible for the selection consists of two artist-scientists (Stefanie De Winter and Wendy Morris), and Christina Seyfried (Cultural Office KU Leuven), all of whom have considerable experience with art-science cross-over projects and exhibitions. This team can rely on advice from Wim Lambrecht (a highly experienced curator from LUCA School of Arts, Brussels), Geert Bouckaert (President of the Commission of Contemporary Arts, KU Leuven), Stéphane Symons (member of the Commission of Contemporary Arts, KU Leuven, with experience as a curator) and Johan Wagemans (regular VSAC attendee with a lot of experience with art-science projects and exhibitions).

4. ART-SCIENCE dialogue

We will do all we can to foster a continuous dialogue between artists and scientists during the complete program. In addition, we open up the possibility to submit specifically as a pair of an artist and a scientist. The scientist can submit a regular science contribution (talk or poster, options 1 or 2 above) and the artist can submit a regular art contribution (option 3 above). They can refer to each other’s contribution to clarify the connection and we, as organizers, can then ensure that the connection is facilitated by scheduling and organizing the sessions appropriately. Moreover, a specific art-science dialogue session could be organized, if we receive enough high-quality proposals of this type. Here we would require an abstract (submitted as option 1) highlighting the collaborative work, adding supplemental material about the artwork as needed.


For more information on VSAC 2019, visit https://www.vsac2019.org/ .
All questions about submissions can be emailed to vsac2019submissions@kuleuven.be .

On behalf of the scientific and organizing committee,

Johan Wagemans

University of Leuven (KU Leuven)
Department of Brain & Cognition
Laboratory of Experimental Psychology
Tiensestraat 102, box 3711
B-3000 Leuven
Email: johan.wagemans@kuleuven.be
Web: http://www.gestaltrevision.be/en/

Mark your calendar: VSAC 2019 Leuven August 21-24, ECVP 2019 Leuven August 25-29

Are human visual preferences older than humans themselves?

Our most recent paper shows that we (Homo sapiens) share our preference for curved contours with our closest living primate relatives: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla). This suggests that such preference is not a unique evolutionary acquisition of our species. It seems, rather, that we inherited it from earlier primate ancestors – at least the common ancestor of humans, chimpanzees and gorillas, which lived in Africa some 7 or 8 million years ago.

The implication is that some of the building blocks of aesthetic appreciation – visual preference, in this case – might have a long evolutionary history in the primate lineage, predating the appearance of our own species by millions of years. Whatever the details of the origin of aesthetic appreciation, it seems it was the result of tweaking and integrating perceptual, cognitive, and emotional processes common to many extant and extinct primate species.



Among the visual preferences that guide many everyday activities and decisions, from consumer choices to social judgment, preference for curved over sharp-angled contours is commonly thought to have played an adaptive role throughout human evolution, favoring the avoidance of potentially harmful objects. However, because nonhuman primates also exhibit preferences for certain visual qualities, it is conceivable that humans’ preference for curved contours is grounded on perceptual and cognitive mechanisms shared with extant nonhuman primate species. Here we aimed to determine whether nonhuman great apes and humans share a visual preference for curved over sharp-angled contours using a 2-alternative forced choice experimental paradigm under comparable conditions. Our results revealed that the human group and the great ape group indeed share a common preference for curved over sharp-angled contours, but that they differ in the manner and magnitude with which this preference is expressed behaviorally. These results suggest that humans’ visual preference for curved objects evolved from earlier primate species’ visual preferences, and that during this process it became stronger, but also more susceptible to the influence of higher cognitive processes and preference for other visual features.

Munar, E., Gómez-Puerto, G., Call, J., & Nadal, M. (2015). Common visual preference for curved contours in humans and great apesPLoS One, 10(11): e0141106