Visual Cultures of Science | Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem

Visual Cultures of Science

Total Hours
Semester A
Course Day
Time 16:30 - 18:00

Throughout history philosophers of nature and scientists explored various ways to depict natural phenomena - letters, numbers, symbols, diagrams, illustrations and photos. They shifted from one mode of depiction to the other according to temporal necessities, technological breakthroughs, and in times, according to the invisible disposition of the investigated natural objects. Recently historians of science who explored the visualization of science have developed new theoretical models, interfacing the disciplines of history of science and art history, and portraying scientists as knowledge-producers that incorporated art, artistic styles and visual arguments in order to convince the scientific community. The incorporation of art in the sciences had a powerful affect not only on the ways to depict nature, but also on the mechanisms through which one could determine the credibility of scientific knowledge. With the appearances of illustrations, pictures and photos came along arguments regarding scientific perspective, scientific style, scientific culture and objectivity. This class will survey the evolution of the visualization of the science of nature, commencing with ancient usages of hieroglyphics symbols and medieval diagrammatic presentations; through the print culture and discovery of the new world that gave allowance to the incorporation of images, illustrations and paintings of unheard-of natural objects; and through the invention of optical instruments (like the telescope and the microscope), extending human sensors and producing images of the unseen nature. We will conclude with the rise of modern technology and practices of photography, freezing the processes of natural phenomena and also reducing the process of scientific-thinking to the time lap of the opening of the camera’s aperture, to a tenth of a second. Thus, the class will expose the student to a cutting-age, dynamic and innovative literature, aiming to show how visual arguments replaced the traditional demonstrative logical arguments, creating a new science that is fundamentally based on aesthetic representations of nature and on social trust in the processes and technologies that produced such images.