Fact Based Myth


project outline

Fact Based Myth is the name of an ongoing visual research collaboration between Mia Melvær and design studio Hanna Whitehead. The title reflects on how ones mind is inclined to categorize certain things that we do not understand clearly as mythical.

The starting point of these visual experiments was a shared fascination for a story about rats and a man named Rosenthaal (see below). from Rosenthaal’s rats originated a project about doubt, unconscious bias, projection and imitation. With An interest in putting human perception of reality to the test, the project unpacks ideas around perceived standard sizes and investigates how they occupies space in different ways.

Fact Based Myth acknowledges reality as something always seen though layers of ones own senses and decision of what to call an original and what to deem a reflection. With a look into our perception of physical formats, from standard units to the individual palm of a hand, the collaboration mixes fact with fiction as objects turn up in drag.




Dull rats and bright rats

Dr Rosenthal and Fode had two groups of students test rats, wrongly informing them either that the rats were specially bred to be "maze dull" or "maze bright." In reality, all rats were standard lab rats, and were randomly assigned to the "dull" and "bright" conditions. The students did not know what they were testing for but were told to test the rats ability to solve a t-maze (see fig 21.1) over a period of five days. The results showed that the rats labeled as "bright" learned the mazes a lot quicker than those labeled as "dull." The correct responses of the maze-bright rats were on average quicker than the maze-dull rats on each of the five days (Table 21.2) Apparently, students had unconsciously influenced the performance of their rats, depending on what they had been told. Furthermore, the rats in the maze-bright condition showed a consistent trend of improvement in terms of speed and number of correct responses over the five-day period. The performance of the maze-dull rats did not improve every day in this way.

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The effect of experimenter bias on the performance of the albino rat. R. Rosenthal & K.L. Fode (1963). 


Mia_Melvaer_FBM silikon.jpg


From the exhibition in reykjavik

In april 2017 the first exhibition from fact based myth opened at the Hönnunarmiðstöð Íslands, Reykjavik.

Many thanks to the team at Hönnunarmiðstöð for all support, and to Guitarist Þorkell Ragnar Grétarsson who throughout the opening mirrored The exhibition's focus on toying with one's perception of reality and originals with winding, Psychedelic music.