Material Culture of Science | Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem

Material Culture of Science

Total Hours
Semester A
Course Day
Time 14:30 - 16:00

The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment represent the birth of a series of ideas that became the foundations of the modern era. For many years, historical accounts depicted this revolutionary ideas as stemming from internal development of ideas, as a product of pure thoughts. In this seminar we will examine the ways in which ideas were born not from pure thoughts but actually from interactions with material culture - practices of collection and reflection on objects in nature and utilizing instruments of measurement and simulation of natural phenomena. Our journey will begin with sixteenth century fossils and will go through several historical millstones - eighteenth century exhibitions of recaptured skeletons of extinct animals; nineteenth century steam engines and vitalism that generated thoughts about chaotic and ensouled nature; early attempts in the twentieth century to explore the secrets of life in organic chemistry all the way through the rise of the new sciences – epigenetics and neuroscience – that reduced the spirit of man and his thoughts to electromagnetic material interactions. We will look for the ways in which modern science started in material culture and eventually ended up, in the twenty first century, in arguing that thoughts - in and of themselves - are a mere product of electric interaction with organic matter. Thus, the seminar will expose the students to the argument that matter is not only an embodied representation of ideas but actually the soil from which ideas grow. This principle has a great potential in invoking profound contemplations among artisans and artists as they approach matter and, in turn, could dramatically transform their creation.