The field of “Science/Art Studies” is far from canonized, yet has robust exemplars in work from at least three decades by sociologists, philosophers, and historians, as well as scientists and artists. Historians and sociologists of science have enriched our understanding of how instruments and representations do scientific and cultural work in stratified social situations; Social historians of art have expanded from an analysis of specific artworks to an interrogation of the preconditions for art making in particular scientific contexts or image regimes. The edited volume Picturing Science / Producing Art by the workshop’s research directors assembled some of these approaches in 1998 to pose science-studies questions of art, and aesthetic, stylistic, or visual questions of science. In this first decade of the 21st century, we seek to reopen these questions, as science is increasingly dominated by imaging practices in the everyday production of data, and a growing cadre of artists have become data miners, data visualizers, and producers of research.
We will, in this workshop, begin in existing disciplines (including philosophy, sociology, the histories of art and science, and other fields), but will work across these domains to explore the emerging terrain of Science/Art Studies. Above all, we will interrogate image- and object-making practices that are culturally entangled in the production of knowledge across the several sectors of society that sort themselves as “artistic” or “scientific” – how images and objects are engendered, organized, distributed, sorted, and put into scientific and social action.
Two examples suggest the way we might pitch such questions across the putative divide between art and science: How do ink blot images function as parlor games, tests of imagination, probes of the unconscious, psychological tests, job placement indicators, markers of the scientific self,and recurring tropes of artistic subjectivity? How can stroboscopic registrations of gesture play a role in the works of Jackson Pollock, those icons of absolute subjectivity, and in the same historical period prove foundational to the Taylorist scientific time-motion studies of the workplace? Science/Art Studies can explore such questions about the history of the subject as registered in the mark, or registering through projection.Powerful tools from a number of disciplines can be brought together for use in a new field of inquiry that can go well beyond the limits of “science” or “art” as such, to reveal broad cultural forces and histories of social subjects. In a time of rapidly proliferating images and evolving technologies, Science/Art Studies can provide important new tools to guide research.
We invite emerging historians, philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and others in the humanities and interpretive social sciences to submit applications to the workshop. In particular, we are looking for scholars researching science for whom images are integral to their argument. In parallel, we are keen to invite philosophers, historians and cultural analysts who are committed to studying images within a scientific or technical context. Our aim at the widest level is to explore how pictures, inscriptions, imaging practices, simulations, models, objects, institutions, and infrastructures operate within the registers of science and art, broadly conceived. We will provide participants with the intellectual tools to make the resources of visual and material culture an active and analytically rich component of their scholarly research and writing.
David Lee Baylis
Michigan State University, Geography
"Oriental flavor, but no American character": American Agricultural Imperialism and Oriental TobaccoConceptualizing the United States as empire produced fruitful observations about the nature of global power networks. Envisioning the United States as a commodity driven economy that sought ever expanding markets was particularly illustrative (Domosh, 2004). However, despite detailed and extensive work regarding European ecological and agricultural imperialism (from the Columbian Exchange to the Kew Gardens), few researchers have considered the theoretical or historical implications of uniquely American ecological and agricultural imperialism in a global economy. In addition, imperialist projects derive legitimacy from culturally specific appeals to reason and logic through particular applications of science and aesthetic. In the West, this materialized as “high modernist project[s]” for improving humanity (Scott, 1998), from large damns and utopian cities to botanical gardens and green revolutions. I will assess the scientific and aesthetic foundations of American agricultural imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th century by focusing on the American Tobacco Corporation’s attempts to penetrate and control oriental tobacco markets and knowledge. Botanical Societies (Torrey), notions of aroma, row spacing, plant height and beauty, ethnicity and character, and competing indigenous and technological knowledge claims coalesced around the production of idealized “oriental” identities and tobacco plants, both at home and abroad.
Amanda E. Bevers
University of California / San Diego, History
Of Specimens and Scalpels: Medical Objects and the Making Museums of Medical History in the United States, 1860-1990My dissertation focuses on the development and transformation of medical museums in the United States from public “laboratories” of pathological research in the nineteenth century to institutions for public education of the history of modern medicine in the twentieth century. By interrogating the scientific objects, medical specimens and forms of presentation of medical knowledge within museums of medical history in the United States from 1860 to 1990, I hope to illustrate the changing relationship between these museums and public conceptualizations of medicine, medical education, and paradigms in the history of medicine. These questions form the heart of my project: • Should museums of medical history function as passive archives of knowledge or active contributors to current debates in medical science and the construction of medical history? • How are scientific objects and medical specimens conceived, constructed, arranged and presented for the public in museums of medical history and how do these factors affect the knowledge generated by these museums? • How do conceptualizations museum staff and exhibition makers have about the science, history and role of medicine in the public’s understanding of modern health and medicine translate into forms of presentation and dissemination of knowledge in and through the museums?
Jeremy T. Blatter
Harvard University, History of Science
Hugo Münsterberg and the Psychotechnics of Everyday LifeAt the end of the nineteenth century, psychology recast itself as an experimental science belonging among the pantheon of established natural sciences. Equipped with a laboratory and brass instruments of inscription, the new scientific psychology was committed to an ideal of “pure” research conducted by ascetic scientists pursuing the ever-elusive laws of the mind. However, by 1900 a number of psychologists began to voice their dissatisfaction with the ivory tower isolationism and impracticality of laboratory research. In Germany, William Stern called for the reorientation of experimental psychology around the concept of individuality and coined the term “psychotechnik” to describe the new applied psychology’s emphasis on the contingencies of individual experience and real world relevance. Meanwhile at Harvard, Hugo Münsterberg had also seen the light of applied psychology and quickly became its foremost proponent and popularizer in both the United States and Germany. This dissertation will trace how applied psychology emerged from the cloistered laboratories of late nineteenth century experimental psychology. More specifically, I will investigate how applied psychology’s instrumental interventions in everything from advertising and aesthetics to industrial management and education, not only transformed the look and feel of modern life, but constructed new kinds of subjects and self-understandings.
Lee Elizabeth Douglas
New York University (NYU), Anthropology
Rendering Visible the Disappeared: Forensic Scientists, Artists, and Photographic Practice in Post-dictatorship Argentina and Spain.Forensic science employs osteological, biological, and archaeological theories and methods in order to positively identify unidentified human remains. Within this multi-method field, image-making practices, especially photographic ones, play a thought-provoking role: Photographic practices are a prescribed method of documentation and evidence collection. They are also a social practice through which those implicated in forensic investigations make meaning about the violence of the past and the silence surrounding particular historical or experiential narratives. This dissertation aims to understand how artistic and scientific image-making practices become intricately entangled during the excavation of mass graves and the identification of remains in post-dictatorship Argentina and Spain. By comparing Argentine and Spanish experiences with post-violence forensic investigations, this project maps two opposing temporal, historical, and judicial landscapes that profoundly shape local stakes embedded in artistic and scientific approaches to exhuming the missing. In addition, this dissertation explores the ways in which forensic investigations are becoming sites of scientific and artistic collaboration. Paying close attention to how shifts between analog and digital platforms reshape photographic imaging technologies employed by forensic specialists, this dissertation unpacks the theoretical, social, ethical, and political implications of emerging forms of image production that straddle the worlds of science and art.
Fiona Rose Greenland
University of Michigan, Sociology
Nation, State, and Science in Classical Archaeology (working title)As a scientific and cultural field, archaeology is characterized by multiple stakeholders, including scholars, state actors, artists, mass media, and members of the public. How does this heterogeneity of interest impact the way archaeology is practiced in the field, and its knowledge subsequently constituted and disseminated? I analyze these questions by focusing on classical archaeology in Italy. I use original qualitative research from four excavation sites and archival research from field reports and government documents. Archaeology matters in many places, but the case of Italy provides a set of contrasting epistemic and ontological forces that place the field in a rich and provocative socio-political context. After tracing the origins of professional, “scientific” archaeology to the Fascist period, I examine four major areas: (1) the social organization of archaeological field sites; (2) the influence of local/regional Italian identities on the knowledge production process; (3) the role of the state in shaping field practice through law; and (4) the place of archaeology and archaeological finds in the broader social context (including the problem of tombaroli, or tomb raiders, and their contested position as law-breakers and folk heroes). I will also draw on evidence from Turkey and Spain to allow for comparative discussions.
Whitney E. Laemmli
University of Pennsylvania, History and Sociology of Science
Engineering the Dancing Body: Science, Technology, and Dance in the 20th CenturyBeginning in the 1930s, remarkable efforts were undertaken to streamline, standardize, and systematically record the human body in the world of dance. At the New York City Ballet, the iconic artistic director George Balanchine cultivated a professional identity as a choreographer-cum-engineer while using a redesigned pointe shoe to transform his dancers’ bodies into “efficient expressions of motion” and his ballets into “IBM machines.” At the same time, a new vogue emerged for “dance notation” as a variety of individuals worked to develop a universal system of recording that—drawing on scientific ideas about space, physiology, and bodily effort—could replicate a dance’s subtle artistic core in standardized, written form. My work examines the impact of scientific rhetoric and technological developments on this set of dance-based projects, focusing on how the physical body of the dancer was used to negotiate the uneasy boundary between expressive creativity and technological systematization. I then explore how these projects—with their complex roots in both technological ideologies and artistic subjectivity—became part of the fabric of contemporary science and technology, appearing in debates about the limits of the human body and in the systems underlying certain branches of workplace movement analysis, psychotherapy, and robotics.
Columbia University, Art History
Nervous Encounters: Somatic Spectatorship and Painting, 1780-1850When the English author Horace Walpole first saw Henry Fuseli’s "The Nightmare" exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1782, he wrote just one word to describe it in his exhibition catalogue: “shocking.” Walpole was referring to the salacious content of the image—a woman lying supine, her clothes in a state of disarray, and a supernatural creature perched on her chest. Yet Walpole was also gesturing to a larger phenomenon that was both produced by and allegorized in Fuseli’s painting. Shock, as an emphatically embodied reaction (one that bypasses or overrides an intellectual response), is often understood as a quintessentially modern sensation. The German intellectual Walter Benjamin argued that shell shock, a medical condition that came to the fore during World War I, was the basic character of modern life. However, my dissertation will demonstrate that the origin of this mode of response lies in late 18th- and early 19th-century theories of the nervous system and the sublime. I will address when and how the body became the stage on which the spectator performed his aesthetic response. Additionally, where can we locate the origin of this response to art—a “nervous,” embodied response—in relation to aesthetic and medical discourse?
Columbia University, Art History
Toward a Theory of Visual ResistenceWhat is the historical relationship between aesthetics and information? How is a screen like a framed work of art? This project attempts to investigate the shared histories of film and art in theories of the neurological “intensity” of mental images and proto-screenic practises. Interestingly, the idea of an interactive relationship between viewing subject and viewed object emerged simultaneously with the question of historical agency and sociopolitical revolution. Beginning with the Germanic psychophyical theorists of aesthetic empathy who took an interest in traditional media like low-reliefs and abstract patterns in the mid-19c, by the time of the Eastern European Communist revolutions of the early 20c, the neurological impact of images most clearly preoccupied theorists of new media or cinema. So whereas Theodor Lipps demonstrated an aesthetic theory of empathy with abstract objects like lines or color fields in the 19c, theorists in 1919 like Georg Lukacs and Bela Balazs put the same ideas to test in building a revolutionary Communist cinema culture for the brief-lived Hungarian Republic of Councils in 1919. Why have we come to diassociate the narrative of the embodied image from the trajectory of modernist art?
Timothy Connelly Prizer
University of North Carolina / Chapel Hill, Anthropology
Dancing across the Divide: Humans, Nonhumans, and the Preservation of Japanese Dance TraditionsMy dissertation research will explore the interconnected worlds of cultural preservationists and robotics engineers in Japan -- groups who, in recent years, have begun to design and construct humanoid robots capable of performing traditional Japanese dances. The campaign, which I understand as an effort that unites a nation’s past with its future (national heritage preservation with technological innovation), is ostensibly aimed at preserving the dances as human performers age and pass away. The topic allows me to actively engage essentially all of my theoretical interests: tradition, performance, embodiment, cultural memory, materiality, posthumanism, and science/technology studies. The ethnographic fieldwork for the project will be based primarily in Tokyo and Osaka with robotics engineers, and in Fukushima Prefecture with Aizu Bandaisan dancers.
New York University (NYU), Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health
Containing Science, Bottling BiopowerMarketing and government messages in Western societies reiterate that the good patient/citizen/consumer is responsible for production and maintenance of an ideal body despite increasing societal and environmental risks. Situated in a world saturated with public and private messages about health, functional beverages—drinks that blur the boundary between food and medicine—seek to construct and influence knowledge about individualized health power. Little qualitative analysis exists of users of functional foods, or of the role that package aesthetics play in creating the “functionality” of these products. Yet these foods, through transnational distribution networks, permeate borders, potentially affecting health in ways and places previously only imagined. I adopt an anthropological and STS approach to examine the social life of the functional beverage, examining how the entwining of visual and textual into a consumable material object occurs. I ask whether science, bottled and consumable, is entangled with contemporary textual and visual regimes of nutritional knowledge, and reflect larger social and cultural concerns with bodily aesthetics and health. If so, do the visual and scientific articulate a contemporary life that reveals new risks associated with food consumption and regimes of biomedicine?
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art
Technologies of the Social: The Contemporary Art Exhibition in Formation of its PublicsMy dissertation will focus on the institutional processes and technologies through which 20th century museum publics are formed, in the sense of being articulated or assembled, as well as in the sense of the spectatorial public becoming an artistic form after modernism. Engagements with institutions and publics emerged simultaneously as major procedures of conceptual art in the 1960s and 70s –in the displayed family of Oscar Bony (La Familia Obrera, 1968), in Hans Haacke’s constituency appraisals (MoMA Poll, 1970), and in Joseph Beuys’s reevaluation of the exhibitionary status of art (Organization for Direct Democracy, founded 1971). Alexander Dörner’s tenure at the Hannover Provinzialmuseum initiated the expansion of the curatorial purview beyond the stewardship of artifacts to the production of ideas. The exhibitionary complex has since grown to accommodate technologies of the social, both as “new media” hardware and as Foucault’s practiques evolving within institutional contexts. My research will address this rise of social art practice and the institutional, social scientific, and technological developments that surrounded it. I will examine governmental and technological entanglements fueling social practices in the museum, measuring these developments against changing ideals of the participatory commons (Habermas, Negt and Klüge, Mouffe).
Harvard University, Anthropology
Demolition and Construction: an ethnographic study of the re-making of DetroitMany would say Detroit is a city in ruin; a post-apocalyptic wasteland or the discarded exoskeleton of a former era. But the rendering of an urban identity is a long, contested process marked by at-times extreme power differentials. Poised at a moment when international attention has been focused on Detroit, this project explores the ways in which a city’s residents seek to re-claim control of the image and shape of their home. The production and circulation of images and objects by a strong, if dispersed, grassroots community grapples against representations of Detroit by international media outlets, private foundations, and international artists that paint a polarized picture of ruin and abandonment versus life and growth. This project will explore the processes of making (both place-making and the making of objects and images), the power embedded in the production of space, and the production and re-production of “home” in a de-industrialized urban setting. How, and to what effect, are images, objects, and spaces, remade in acts of creative re-fashioning? How does an aesthetic defined by the linearity and monotony of the assembly line come to be refigured in a new era of art-making, technology, and the (re)mediation of a post-industrial space?