Artistic Research in the Science Lab: Praxis and Exhibition

Spring 2023

The second part of a two-semester sequence associated with the 2022-23 Bass Connections team Laboratory Art in Practice: Building a Model for an Art/Science Lab at Duke, this course is intended for students in the creative arts who wish to explore the methods and mediums of the natural sciences, as well as science students interested in engaging scientific modes of inquiry through the lens of art. Building on the historical, aesthetic, and ethical discussions and laboratory practices of the Fall 2022 course (see “Laboratory Techniques for Artistic Practice” below), students in the spring course will focus on developing their own (individual or small-group) laboratory-based artistic research project, culminating in an end-of-semester exhibition. Students will document ongoing research praxis by innovating on the form of the traditional lab notebook, present work-in-progress while participating in weekly critique (with both peers and visiting artists/scholars), and address the challenges of exhibiting art-science creative research.

Laboratory Techniques for Artistic Practices

Fall 2022

This course is the first of two courses for the 2022-2023 Bass Connections’ team Laboratory Art in Practice: Building a Model for an Art/Science Lab at Duke. In this first semester, we will establish the framework for developing an interdisciplinary laboratory space for artists at Duke and expand the repertoire of practiced-based research methods in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies to include the media and techniques from the biological and natural sciences. Students will be introduced to historical, ethical and social descriptions of experimental practice from within science studies; learn lab techniques (e.g., microscopy, dissection, immunostaining, keeping a lab notebook, bioplastics); and study artwork that incorporates media, instruments and practices from the life sciences.

Experiments in Science, Art and Writing

Spring 2022

As a descriptor for works of art, “experimental” can indicate 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 experiment as a form of artistic practice. Focusing on examples from twentieth and twenty-first-century art across media, we will study key ways in which practices and postures associated with experimental science have been appropriated, adapted, reimagined, and critiqued. 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 include feminist science fiction, proto-Afrofuturism, conceptual writing, BioArt, and citizen science.