Spring 2022 Course: Experiments in Science, Art, Writing

Frankenstein cat and mouse

VMS 390-03 / ISS 390-03

“Experiments in Science, Art and Writing”

Dr. Kristen Tapson

MW 10:15am - 11:30am

A290 Smith Warehouse, Bay 9



When used to describe works of art, “experimental” is a complicated term with a range of possible meanings: an association with a particular avant-garde movement, a commitment to procedural composition, an idiosyncratic test, a beholder’s admiration or skepticism, or, more rarely, a relationship to scientific knowledge making. Regardless of its definition (or resistance to definition), though, “experimental” is a powerful term across domains. In this course, we will take the scientific inflection of experiment seriously in relation to art, asking ourselves what we mean (and what we could mean) when we talk about experimental inquiry in the frames of artistic practice and everyday life. 

After briefly addressing the role of experiment in the production of scientific knowledge and establishing key features of its transformation from the Enlightenment to the present day, we will explore ways in which practices associated with experimental science have been appropriated, adapted, reimagined, and critiqued by twentieth and twenty-first-century artists and writers. As we explore a range of models for science-inflected art practices and consider the stakes of “acting like scientists” across contexts, we will pay particular attention to laboratory art, its limits, and its possible future horizons. Key topics will include feminist science fiction, proto-Afrofuturism, conceptual writing, BioArt, and citizen science.