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HAR 8001 - BLOCK B SEMINAR: Who Can Read The Book of Nature?: Artists, Scientists and Their Concepts of Nature

W - 13:00-16:00
UQAM, Pavilon Judith Jasmin, R-4215

NOTE: This seminar will be organised in such a way as to allow students to attend the Hypothesis Conference.


Artistic trends of the last decades of the art deco, Art Art or Land Art underscore that nature remains a dominant theme in contemporary culture. Seen in historical perspective, this is surprising because since the seventeenth-century scientists have been increasingly considered as gatekeepers to an exclusive understanding of nature. According to Panofsky, the Seicento is a watershed leading towards an increased disciplinary compartmentalization of knowledge in general, but in particular between natural philosophy and the arts. Examples of eighteenth-century collaborations between artists and scientists.  

This seminar will reconstruct the history of the disciplinary separation between art and science and take a collaborative or competitive relationship between artists and scientists in their shared interest in nature. The goal is to arrive at a definition of distinct ontological and theoretical foundations for both disciplines. The art of visual perception in the realm of arcane structures of nature, is the two reconcilable? If the nature of scientists, what concepts of nature do artists base their work on? Did and do not consider the subject matter as a discipline in the understanding of nature?  

Tracing back the histories of both disciplines, this seminar will open up questions highlighting disciplinary divergence and parallels between art and science from the early modern era to contemporary art.  

The seminar will be organized in two steps:

1. Introduction to the history of science and its approach to visual representations, the status of images, the relationship between text and image, epistemic images. 

2. Reflection on the relevance and applicability of this body of literature for historical research.  

Each student will investigate and analyze the inter-disciplinary exchanges between artists and scientists in their own field of expertise. 


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DASTON, L. and PARK, K. Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 . New York, 1998. 

DASTON, L. and VIDAL, F. The Moral Authority of Nature . Chicago, 2004.

DASTON, L. and GALISON, P. Objectivity.  Chicago, 2010.

DASTON, L. and LUNBECK, E. (eds.) Histories of Scientific Observation . Chicago, 2011.

DORIAC, F. The land art-and after: the emergence of geoplastic works . Paris, 2005.

FINDLEN, P. Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy . Chicago, 1996. 

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FREEDBERG, D. The Eye of the Lynx. Galileo, his Friends, and the Beginnigs of Modern Natural  History . Chicago, 2002.

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PANOFSKY, E. Galileo as a Critic of the Arts . The Hague, 1954.

SCOTT, J. Artists in Labs: Process of Inquiry: Exploring the Interface Between Art and Science . Vienna, 2006.

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SMITH, PH Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge . Ann Arbor, Mich. 2014.

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