UAG

  • Exhibition poster, designed by Aisling Quigley
     

    Data (after)Lives opens tomorrow!!

    Opening Event: Thursday, September 8th, 4-6pm

    This exhibition incorporates the work and research of Rich Pell (Curator at the Center for PostNatural History), Paul Vanouse, Steve Rowell, Aaron Henderson, and Heather Dewey-Hagborg. Paulina Pardo Gaviria also reinterpets the work of Letícia Parente (1930-1991). Also co-curated by Dr. Alison Langmead, Dr. Josh Ellenbogen, and Isabelle Chartier. Design associates: Aisling Quigley and Jennifer Donnelly. 

    Categories: 
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • UAG
  •  

    Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar Kicks Off!

    This fall's HAA 1020/2020: Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar students began their journey into the world of contemporary Latin American art by exploring the exhibition catalog Open Work and pulling out some terms, phrases, and quotes that stuck out to them.

    Categories: 
    • Undergraduate Work
    • UAG
  • Entering data at my work station in the University Art Gallery

     

    Collective Access: A Fresh View of the UAG

    Museum Studies Intern at the University Art Gallery - Spring 2016

    As a University Art Gallery Intern, I am working to update and standardize the online database system, Collective Access, in conjunction with the old system, Past Perfect, and paper files to create a more comprehensive and accessible database. Additionally, I am creating a Collective Access Data Entry Guide to ensure the system is consistent in the future. This position is very rewarding as it allows me to enrich the resources the UAG offers to art history researchers and to the curious public alike. The breadth of the database is quite extensive, cataloging basic information, physical characteristics, geography/culture, valuation, etc. Of all of these categories, I find the condition reports to be the most fascinating piece of information. Currently, I am working on updating the Nicholas Lochoff Collection, displayed in the Cloister of the Frick Fine Arts building. The resources for this collection are extensive and a very detailed condition report was conducted on several of the pieces in 2002. Physical maintenance was conducted on these pieces in 2003. It is extremely interesting to see both the natural aging of the materials and works as well as the impact of the restoration by comparing the first condition report to the treatment report following the maintenance. This internship has been a fulfilling, educational, and unique capstone to the Museum Studies minor. 

    Categories: 
    • Current Projects
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • UAG
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  •  

    The Marbles Go to London

    I'm still inputting data about the Elgin Marbles (now we're calling them the 'Parthenon Marbles') into Itinera.  For your intellectual curiosity, let me educate you a little bit about the international controversy that surrounds these ancient marbles statues.

    The artist Phidias sculpted the Parthenon Marbles as decoration for the Parthenon in Athens, Greece between ca. 447 - 438 BCE.  However, although Athens was once a leading city, it diminished into a sketchy, decrepit neighborhood with a far-off a history of grandeur.  By the time Lord Elgin (also known as the ambassador, Thomas Bruce) became interested in the Marbles, Athens was already in tatters.  His interest was sparked by the decorative Marbles, and he told his secretary, William Richard Hamilton, to check out the Marbles in July 1800.  Hamilton also brought along the artist Giovanni Battista Lusieri and a group of other artists to draw the statues at the Acropolis, including the Parthenon Marbles.

    This was all in the early 1800s, when tensions were brewing around Europe because of the Napoleonic Wars.  So in February 1801, Bruce's artists were denied entrace to the Acropolis because of paranoia that the French would attack Turkey after the invasion of Egypt.  Unless Bruce could send a firman, or letter of permission, to the Athenian government allowing the artist to have access to the Marbles, they were finished.

    After some procrastination, Bruce requested a firman at the Porte in Athens, Greece, which became (debatably) official by July 1801.  The firman granted the artists access to the Marbles, and Bruce also threw in a clause stating that the artists had permission to move the Parthenon Marbles from Athens to London, England.

    Next week, I'll post about the controversy that surrounds the Parthenon Marbles.  Stay tuned!

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • UAG
  •  

    HAAARCH!!! 2015 Exhibition Map and Schedule

    Edited by Stefan Proost

    Categories: 
    • HAAARCH!!! 2015
    • Undergraduate Work
    • UAG
    • Underwood and Underwood, Traveling in the Holy Land through the Stereoscope
    • Six Degrees of Francis Bacon
    Underwood and Underwood, Traveling in the Holy Land through the Stereoscope

    Underwood and Underwood, The Pool of Siloam, --outside of Jerusalem, Palestine, 1900, 2 photographs mounted on card; (8.5x17cm). From a collection of stereo views of Israel/Palestine c.1900. Collection of Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto. http://haagradsymposium.pitt.edu/Abstracts/Richmond-Moll.pdf 

     

    A Reflection on Debating Visual Knowledge

    Earlier this month, students in History of Art and Architecture and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh hosted Debating Visual Knowledge, an interdisciplinary graduate symposium. It was an honor to have Patrick Jagoda and Simone Osthoff participate as keynote speakers, as well as many other inspiring and diverse thinkers and makers. Highlights included a panel on curating with Terry Smith, Cynthia Morton, Alison Langmead, and Dan Byers, opportunities to experience the work of filmmakers Ross Nugent and Mike Maraden, Ella Mason and Joanna Reed of Yes Brain Dance Theater, and a Finnbogi Petursson exhibition curated by Murray Horne at Wood Street Galleries. We heard 14 presentations on a huge variety of topics from grad students who had travelled nationally and internationally to be here, and were able to workshop papers by two participants. We also toured Configuring Disciplines: Fragments of an Encyclopedia at the University Art Gallery.

    I hope that we can continue the many specific and fascinating conversations raised that weekend as we post videos and further thoughts to the Constellations website, collaborate with our graduate journal Contemporaneity, and produce digital projects that present the results of this event. I think we have an opportunity here to become a network of researchers who are a resource for each other because of some common interests. We take images seriously as sources of new knowledge, not just reflections of other knowledge. We share a concern about focusing on “the visual” as something specific, as something that matters as a historical concept, but not always, not necessarily, as separate from other domains. Most of all, we think that the study of visual material and sensory experience does not belong to a single discipline. We all have to reckon with traditional disciplinary boundaries in our work and can benefit from the support of a community in doing so.

    When we started developing the symposium, we were intentionally vague about what we wanted to happen, and the conversations throughout our process were both exciting and confusing. We took a risk and refused to decide what exactly we meant by ‘visual knowledge’, what kinds of material would count, or which scholars would fit. Really the only thing the CFP asserted (besides that visual knowledge is in many places and means many things to many people) is that visual knowledge is different from language, a choice that continues to bring up important questions. By working as a multi-disciplinary group, we were able to invite work across a broad variety of areas and in formats other than papers--like posters, artworks, and workshops. At the same time, we learned how difficult interdisciplinarity can be to achieve, and I think our CFP still spoke most readily to humanities scholars. There is so much ground that must be covered in order to make non-superficial bridges between the cultures, communication networks, and languages of different disciplines.

    We took some baby steps though, and the biggest payoff for me was that our CFP, and the idea of visual knowledge being put forward jointly by art historians and information scientists, attracted people who all shared a feeling that their work requires interdisciplinarity. I believe that this sensibility alone is a powerful idea, that young scholars who have this feeling should get connected early on to affirm that their work can develop in this way. We also were successful in experimenting with traditional conference structure and in thinking about what it is we really want to get out of a graduate symposium. It is clear to me now that while opportunities to present in front of auditorium audiences are important for us as developing scholars, working groups and roundtables are where we really have the productive conversations of which we are in search when we travel to conferences.

    I am really excited about how collaboration between people in different disciplines permits work that could never be done by one person. Humanities scholars don’t publish multiple-author papers very often, but to me this seems necessary. Twentieth-century photographer Berenice Abbott commented, when talking about how she tried to collaborate with scientists to make photographs to teach physics in the late 1950s, that one of her main arguments with them was that photography is a lifetime profession too, and that if true expertise in photography could be combined with other scholars’ expertise in physics, the whole would be greater than the sum of the parts. Many other examples of this kind of situation came up in talks during the symposium. We need also to talk about the difficulties in collaboration—how it can be slow and inefficient, how it can be socially and emotionally demanding.

    Debating Visual Knowledge is aiming to extend outward the constellations model that the History of Art and Architecture department at Pitt has been working with for the last few years. In our department, the identification of important themes and terms facilitate a specific kind of scholarly collaboration between experts in different fields. This environment has resulted in co-authored digital projects, co-taught courses, and this symposium, which seeks to apply these approaches beyond our department and make contact with others who are working in convergent ways.

    This reflection is cross-posted on Nexus, a blog hosted by University of Maryland’s Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture.

     

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
    • Graduate Work
    • UAG
  • Système figuré des connoissances humaines, in Diderot and d’Alembert, Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers


    Système figuré des connoissances humaines, in Diderot and d’Alembert, Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
. Published by Pellet, Geneva, 1777-1779, text volume 1. Courtesy of Special Collections, Hillman Library, University of Pittsburgh.

    • Système figuré des connoissances humaines, in Diderot and d’Alembert, Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783). Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.
    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783) and Pierre Mouchon (French, 1733-1797)  Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783) and Pierre Mouchon (French, 1733-1797)  Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783) and Pierre Mouchon (French, 1733-1797)  Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
    • Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784), Jean le Rond d’Alembert (French, 1717-1783) and Pierre Mouchon (French, 1733-1797)  Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
     

    Knowledge Reconfigured

    Drew Armstrong

    Diderot, d’Alembert and the Encyclopédie (1751)

    The “Tree of Knowledge” [Système figuré des connaissances humaines] appeared in the first volume of the Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (1751), a titanic publishing enterprise produced between 1751 and 1772 and masterminded by Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert (1717-1783).  The point of the diagram was to demonstrate that all knowledge [Entendement] is the product of sense experience and the workings of three mental faculties – Memory, Reason, and Imagination.

    The “Tree of Knowledge” encapsulated in a single image the main goals of the Encyclopédie: to reconfigure the entirety of human knowledge as the basis for future progress in all fields of inquiry.  Citing precursors such as Francis Bacon, John Locke, and Isaac Newton, Diderot and d’Alembert based their encyclopedia on empirical and mathematical knowledge, rather than the authority of sources such as Ancient texts or the Bible.  An array of contemporary specialists was tapped to write over 70,000 articles on topics ranging from abstract principles of justice to the intricacies of watch-making.

    The first folio edition of the Encyclopédie was a luxury product consisting of 17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of plates illustrating an array of sciences, technologies, and arts.  The 2,885 engraved plates added substantially to the cost and time of production, but the editors justified the inclusion of this material to better explain complicated processes and unfamiliar things to a curious readership.  The Encyclopédie was thus something of a museum of visual specimens as well as an alphabetical dictionary of terms and ideas.

    The ambition of the Encyclopédie was to change the way people thought.  The audacity of this project is brought into focus when considered in relation to the very limited nature of formal education available in eighteenth-century Europe.  Universities were accessible only to a privileged elite and their curricula – inherited from the Middle Ages – remained devoted largely to the study of ancient Greek and Latin authors, law, medicine and, most important, theology.  The Encyclopédie, by contrast, reached a European-wide audience.  By 1789, it is estimated that 24,000 complete sets in various formats and editions had been printed, more than half of which were distributed outside France.

    The Plates of the Encyclopédie

    The plates of the Encyclopédie often represent stages in complex technical processes by juxtaposing images of different types.  Vignettes representing human figures engaged in various activities are supplemented by large-scale renderings depicting tools and their proper manipulation.  Thus, in the plates that represent “Engraving” [Gravure], the process of transferring drawings to copper plates is illustrated in step-by-step fashion in a perspective view of an engraver’s studio, while the chisel-like tools used in this process are shown with cross-sections through their blades to better illustrate their forms.  Numbers adjacent to different parts of the image link each element into articles in the text.

    Other visual techniques employed in the Encyclopédie include table-like arrays of specimens grouped to facilitate visual comparisons.  Such, for example, is the strategy used in the plate from the Supplément (1777) illustrating the stages in the development of a frog, which breaks down the process of gestation to clarify transformation and mutation over time.  Two plates (1768) illustrating different systems of botanical classification – the one developed by the French scholar Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708), the other by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) – are especially striking, permitting the reader to compare two competing systems at a moment when neither had been universally adopted by botanists.  Through these images, the Encyclopédie contributed to discussions about the principles of disciplines and disseminated up-to-date ideas formulate by prominent specialists.

    The Encyclopédie was not merely conceived as a repository of information, but as an instrument for making new knowledge; as such, its product was ambiguous and open-ended, dependent on the reader making serendipitous juxtapositions.  In the course of the eighteenth century, a number of subsequent editions of the Encyclopédie were published, notably the smaller quarto edition exhibited here alongside the first folio edition. Published between 1777 and 1779 in Geneva, the quarto edition consisted of 36 text volumes and only three volumes of illustrations.  By this stage, the new publishers regarded the illustrations as cumbersome and largely unnecessary, explaining that while the Encyclopédie had contributed to “accelerating the progress of reason,” the cost of the original edition was an impediment to maximizing its benefits to humanity.

  • Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Der Weg der entwikclung (The path of development) from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen, vol. II. Published by Franck`sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart, 1929, volume IV. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.

    Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Der Weg der entwikclung (The path of development) from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen, vol. II. Published by Franck`sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart, 1929, volume IV. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.

    • Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Der Weg der entwikclung (The path of development) from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen, vol. II. Published by Franck`sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart, 1929, volume IV. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.
    • Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Die prinzipien der warmeschutzes (The principles of Thermal protection) from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen.
    • Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Das Vegetative Nervensystem (The Autonomic Nervous System), tab. XI from the series Das Leben des Menschen: Eine volkstumliche Anatomie, Biologie, physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen. Published by Franck`sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart, 1929, volume IV. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.
    • Fritz Kahn (German, 1888-1968). Muskel-u Klingelleitung in ihrer funftelligent Ubereinstimmung`` (Muscles and doorbell wire corresponding in five parts)
     

    The Body Reconfigured

    Annika Johnson

    Kahn, The Life of Man (1923-1931)

    The title of Fritz Kahn’s five-volume series – The Life of Man: A Popular Anatomy, Biology, Physiology and Developmental History of Man – reveals his ambition to synthesize new scientific knowledge into texts and images designed for a broad, non-specialist audience.  Kahn imagined the human body as a microcosm of both the universe and of the modern world: atoms, cells, and proteins performed their duties within a complex system of mechanical parts like workers in a great modern city.
     
    A team of illustrators working under Kahn’s supervision produced the illustrations for The Life of Man, but establishing a uniform graphic language – something that preoccupied Kahn’s contemporary Otto Neurath – was not a goal.  Images for The Life of Man were appropriated from a variety of sources and no effort was made to create a homogeneous graphic style.  The diversity of image types – including microscopic photography, graphs, physiognomic illustrations, and three-dimensional photographs (complete with 3D glasses!) – expressed Kahn’s belief that different scientific concepts demanded different and sometimes multiple methods of visualization.
     
    Comparative images dominated Kahn’s approach to scientific visualization. Such images emphasized process over realistic graphic renderings of discrete anatomical parts.  Kahn tackled the challenge of representing biological processes by transforming the body into a complex of machine-like organs assembled from gears, levers, conveyor belts and pulleys.  Unlike the plates of the Encyclopédie, which broke down processes into discrete stages and favored a “true-to-life” mode of representation, Kahn’s images encourage the reader to reconstruct the internal processes of the body by imagining the living organism to function like a well-designed machine.
     
    The Life of Man established standards according to which the reader could measure progress and difference.  Numerous illustrations of bodies deemed abnormal or dysfunctional served to reinforce a norm.  Kahn’s definition of “normal” and his constructions of race and gender were based on long-standing visual traditions that will be encountered in other parts of this exhibition.  Physiognomic illustrations (strikingly similar to those developed in the eighteenth century by Johann Kaspar Lavater) are not completely at odds with Kahn’s mechanic illustrations: both types of image impose a standardized view of a normal body – often white and European.

    Kahn, Man as Industrial Palace (1931)

    To Fritz Kahn (1888-1968), the diffusion of scientific knowledge and its practical applications required compelling visualizations that transformed complex ideas into terms accessible to a modern consumer public.  Man as Industrial Palace (Der Mensch als Industriepalast), the image for which Kahn is best known, first appeared in 1931 in the final volume of Kahn’s series The Life of Man.  Created for a non-specialist audience, the image was intended to hang in the modern home or classroom.
     
    Man as Industrial Palace graphically illustrates Kahn’s goal to define the workings of the human body “in light of modern science.”  The living body as it acts, works, thinks, and dreams is reconfigured according to the author-entrepreneur’s vision for a modern science and pedagogy that demanded a new approach to scientific illustration.  Rejecting the anatomist’s cadaver, Kahn’s illustration of the inner workings of the human body drew from the mechanical world of automobiles, cameras, and telephones that surrounded his middle-class readership.
     
    The deconstructed bodies illustrated in the Encyclopédie may have contained much visual information about their subjects, but they revealed little about the function of bodily systems.  Kahn built up the body for his readers, beginning with the atom and ending with the senses, each component of which functions as part of a fully integrated mechanic system.
     
    Kahn’s mechanic analogies are fraught with ambiguities: do they educate readers about their own bodies, or about the production and use of consumer goods that position their bodies in modernity?  Man as Industrial Palace presents a body of scientific knowledge that was also a microcosm of German society during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933).  Kahn’s hierarchical arrangement of the head and torso mirrored departments in a modern factory.  Men in suits debate in the centers of reasoning and decision-making, while women operate the switchboards of the nervous system.   Below, in the abdomen, uniformed laborers sort starches from fats in the guts of the body.  The educated, consumerist audience for such images more likely profited from the industrial complex than labored in its factories. For further images, please visit Der Mensch als Industriepalast: http://www.fritz-kahn.com/gallery/man-as-industrial-palace/.

  • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 24

    Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 24. Courtesy University of Pittsburgh Library System.

    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 24
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 65.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 25.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 17.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 85.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 99.
    • Otto Neurath (Austrian, 1882-1945). Modern Man in the Making, Knopf, 1939, p. 53.
     

    ISOTYPE-Teaching Images

    Drew Armstrong

    Neurath, Modern Man in the Making (1939)

    Referring to the Biblical confusion of languages, Otto Neurath (1882-1945) regarded the “debabelization” of humanity as an urgent task of the modern era that would ultimately serve to create international harmony and understanding.  His proposed “International System of Typographic Picture Education” – ISOTYPE – was developed as a means to clarify “complex relations in society and economics, in biology, the engineering sciences, and a number of other fields.”

    In the context of post-World War I Europe, Neurath observed that mass media such as print advertising and film permitted the general public to acquire knowledge effortlessly through “optical impressions” – regardless of class or educational background.  Inspired by the potential of the modern world but deeply attuned to its pitfalls, Neurath advocated for the development of a common language of images as part of a standardized system of public education.  He described ISOTYPE as a “helping-language” – a coherent system of graphic signs for “teaching through the eye.”

    Neurath’s “teaching-images” were designed as part of a more general renovation of public education encompassing both classroom instruction for children and museum installations aimed at working class adults.  In Neurath’s Museum of Society and Economy (Vienna, 1925-1934), democracy and scientific literacy were to be fostered through displays of statistical data and other representations.  Establishing common understanding through the experience of a new kind of museum was a means to counter social fragmentation and the divisive effects of specialization.  Models for Neurath’s museum included Universal Expositions held in major European and North American cities since the mid-nineteenth century.  These events attracted huge international audiences, bringing a mass public into contact with the products of industry, science, art, and manufacturing.

    Inspired by the Encyclopédie but critical of its structure,  Neurath wanted his pictorial system to become part of a new encyclopedia project that would present information in a consistent, unambiguous manner intelligible to a global audience.  Its goal was “to give all men a common starting-point of knowledge ... to give simple and clear accounts of everything as a solid base for our thoughts and our acts, and to make us fully conscious of the conditions in which we are living.”

    Comenius, Orbis Sensualium Pictus (1658)

    First published in 1658, Comenius’s primer – Orbis Sensualium Pictus – was translated into numerous languages and was used for teaching Latin to children for over a century.  As a Protestant and early advocate for universal education, the point of Comenius’s work was to make the Bible accessible to all.  Neurath admired the pedagogical objectives of Comenius’s book but thought the images lacked clarity.

    Containing over 150 cheap woodcuts, the Orbis Sensualium Pictus illustrated “a world of things obvious to the senses, drawn in pictures.”  Each image is keyed into words and short phrases in English and Latin placed in facing columns of text, a technique intended to facilitate the acquisition of a basic vocabulary in a range of disciplines.

    As the reader proceeds from the beginning of the book through pages illustrating common animals and plants, principles of gardening, the parts of the home, the elements of painting, writing, and printing, she or he (Comenius believe that girls and boys had the same intellectual abilities) is exposed to increasingly sophisticated and modern concepts.  The student thus becomes acquainted with simple terms relating to geometry, astronomy, and philosophy while non-Christian belief-systems are illustrated at the end of the book in figures representing “Judaism” and “Mahometism.”

    Neurath, International Picture Language (1936)

    In size and composition, Neurath’s handbook – International Picture Language. The First Rules of Isotype – recalls primers like those of Comenius and through the use small images and a text written in Basic English, served a similar purpose.  Neurath, however, was intent not on teaching a verbal language through the use of images, but on developing a language of images based on standardized pictorial forms and consistent principles of graphic composition.

    For Comenius writing in seventeenth-century Europe, knowledge of Latin was essential for accessing specialized knowledge in most fields of scholarly inquiry.  Writing in the twentieth century between the two World Wars, Neurath proposed the development of a common language of images to serve the needs of business and science.

    Neurath’s pictorial language derived from more general investigations in the 1920s that sought to understand how graphic design and typography could respond to life in modern urban environments, characterized by increasing visual distraction and shortened attention spans. He thus eliminated ambiguous conventions like perspective in favor of simplified, two-dimensional symbols, and limited the use of colors in his graphics. Drawing on techniques exploited in mass media and popular culture, Neurath’s visual language attempted to make complex ideas accessible to a general public.

  • Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Magnetic Field from Recto, 1958-1961.

    Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Magnetic Field from Recto, 1958-1961.

    • Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Magnetic Field from Recto, 1958-1961.
    • Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Light through Prism, 1958-1961.
    • Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991). Collision of a Moving Sphere and a Stationary Sphere, 1958-1961.
     

    Imag(in)ing the Macrocosm

    Drew Armstrong 

    The images from Cellarius and Hubble diverge from one another in regard to relations they may suggest between microcosm and macrocosm.  Certainly, in beholding Hubble images, and then considering them in relation to work such as Berenice Abbott’s photography, one might seek out parallels between patterns of order as they exist at the largest scale (images of nebulae) and patterns of order as they exist at the smallest scale (images of ripple tanks).

    The search for such patterns may in fact underwrite the most venturesome kinds of scientific inquiry today.  Yet, as an explicit subject of commentary, these parallels often lie beyond the workaday concerns of contemporary scientists, and it falls to artists, such as the famous artist-architect Le Corbusier whose work appears on the opposite wall, to scrutinize them closely.  Not so when Cellarius worked.  As Johannes Janssonius (1588-1664) remarked, Cellarius’s work was part of a “general description of the entire world, namely Heaven and Earth,” that avowedly sought to “discover the Harmoniam Macrocosmicam, the concordance and harmony of the Great World,” one that required terrestrial phenomena to “correspond… correctly to the heavenly bodies in a given proportion and comparison.”

    PHYSICS

    Abbott and the MIT Physical Science Study Committee

    Colleen O’Reilly

    In 1958, Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) was hired by the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) at MIT to work on the development of a new physics textbook for American high school students.  In the wake of the launch of Sputnik and anxieties about the global competitiveness of American science and technology, the National Science Foundation offered funding to the PSSC and other organizations who wanted to revitalize science education so that more young people would pursue scientific professions.

    Abbott, who had been working on science as a subject of photography since 1939, endeavored to make high quality images for the PSSC that clearly explained laws of motion, wave behavior, magnetism and other phenomena. For Abbott, this required the active intervention and creative imposition of an artist, traits that people sometimes imagine lie outside the realm of scientific images.

    Like many scientific images, Abbott’s photographs visualize principles that have no essential visual form.  She represents abstract concepts as concrete visual events.  As much as Abbott may reveal or penetrate nature, she also actively generates visual forms.  The apparently straightforward images belie the complexity of the processes by which they were made, which included the orchestration of lights, the deployment of mechanical devices, experiments with equipment, and the coordination of a team of people.  These methods were designed to result in images that would answer to her artistic, pedagogical agenda.

    Physics was published in 1960, and Abbott was subsequently pushed out of the project, in spite of the success of her photographs and the extent to which they were used.  She expressed deep disappointment with how the reproductions looked in the textbook, but always said that the work she did at MIT was some of the most exciting of her career.  Abbott continued to work with these images, which were circulated in the early 1960s by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service as an exhibit entitled “The Image of Physics”, and continued to be published in science journals, art magazines, and books for general audiences.  They also were and continue to be shown in museums as art objects.

    Berenice Abbott
    American, 1898-1991

    Documenting Science, ed. by Ron Kurtz
    Published by Steidl, Göttingen, 2012

    To me photography is a means, perhaps the best means of our age - of widening knowledge of our world. Photography is a method of education, for acquainting people of all ages and conditions with the turth about life today."

    -Berenice Abbott, "Statement in Regard to Photography Today," unpublished text, 1964
    On loan from Frick Fine Arts Library, University of Pittsburgh

    ASTRONOMY

    NASA Hubble Space Telescope Images

    Cellarius, Harmonia Macrocosmica (1708)

    Astronomical images have undergone enormous changes over the past few centuries.  Such pictures present a coherent set of issues, as they strive to picture celestial objects, provide visual supports for human knowledge of them, pack information into images, and make manifest patterns of order.

    What Hubble space photographs show are not things a human observer can ever perceive, even when the observer looks through a telescope.  Hubble space telescopic images present us with data that only emerge, as data, from the particular artifices that bring them into being: above all, compositing photographs taken at different moments in time, and coloring them in accordance with protocols that theoretical knowledge dictates.  This fact does not imply that Hubble photographs are unreliable, but simply means we cannot view the information they offer as possessing straightforward counterparts in observation.

    Plate 6 of Harmonia Macrocosmica by Andreas Cellarius (c. 1596-1665) pictures the world system of the sixteenth-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601); In Brahe’s schema, the planets revolve around the sun, but the sun and moon revolve around an unmoving earth.

    As is the case with most of the images in Cellarius’s monumental work, his depiction of Brahe’s system shows us something that itself can never be seen, the network of trajectories that celestial bodies follow.  At the same time, the system in question rests entirely on visual data, information available to human observers that they subsequently integrate into an account of the heavens.  Brahe, in fact, belonged to the last generation of astronomers who worked entirely with the naked eye.  Cellarius has taken some liberty in updating Brahe’s system, including the four moons of Jupiter that Galileo had only discovered after Brahe’s death, with the aid of a telescope.

    Both the Cellarius images and the Hubble photographs are not themselves agents of investigation—neither the Cellarius images nor the Hubble “outreach” photographs aim to establish things we do not already know, but strive to communicate pre-existing knowledge to non-specialist audiences.

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