Course Spotlight – 4.s34 | Artistic Methodologies: Art, Science and Experiential Aesthetics (Spring 2021)

Rasa Smite & Raitis Smits, Atmospheric Forest (2020), VR / 360-video.
ACT at MIT

Challenging the contemporary conditions and the urgent need for a transdisciplinary dialogue, this course provides the methodology and tools for creating the art that deals with the topics of science, uses scientific data and technologies to create new aesthetic experiences.

This new course, co-taught by professor and ACT Director Judith Barry, and lecturers Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits, focuses on histories, theories and practices of art and science collaboration, discusses how scientists conceptualize their work, and what ideas and aesthetics the artists use to relate to the world of science. The key approach will be to establish connections with scientists and researchers at MIT, explore facilities across the campus, access the laboratories, and get acquainted with new research agendas. The students will use experiential storytelling, sensing and visualizing technologies, combine fieldwork and laboratory experiments, scientific data and artistic methods to create new aesthetic objects, data visualization projects, immersive environments, and other experiential art works in the context of contemporary socio-cultural discourses.

4.s34 | Artistic Methodologies: Art, Science and Experiential Aesthetics | Judith Barry, Rasa Smite, Raitis Smits (Spring 2021) from ACTMIT on Vimeo.

The role of art in contemporary society keeps changing – it creates a new aesthetics, which gets involved in patterns of social, scientific, and technological transformations. With a growing understanding that fundamental issues faced y our societies are too complex to be solved by a single discipline, artistic research has taken on a new significance for its capacity to move across, bring together and converge different knowledge domains. Today, the most relevant practices use transdisciplinary methods and transformative potential of combining the artistic with the natural, the scientific with the sensible, the imaginative with the real – to create new experiences, knowledge and aesthetics.

From the ‘visual’ to ‘visualizing’
This course will focus on the histories, theories and methodologies of art and science practices, challenging the separation initiated in the Renaissance. The course is based upon the visions of György Kepes (1906-2001), the founder of MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS), who was the greatest pioneer connecting art with forefronts of science and engineering. Reflecting his interest in the relationship between light, organic form, and technology, Kepes combined the found scientific imagery with reproductions of his own experimental photography in order to present the “new frontiers of the visible world.”’ His ambition was “to find channels of communication that interconnect various disciplines.”

Partial List of Guest speakers:
Caroline A. Jones, Professor at MIT Architecture Department / Transmedia Storytelling Initiative
Christiane Paul, chief curator/director of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design / an associate professor at The New School / Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum in New York City.
Paul Vanouse, bio artist and professor at the Department of Art, College of Arts and Sciences, University at Buffalo