Research

My research examines the intersection of science and art through a variety of mediums. I explore the question of how art and science work as categories to circumscribe bodies of knowledge.

The categories of science and art serve many purposes. They indicate the kind of attention people, objects, and ideas want to elicit from readers and viewers. They serve to demarcate resources, to delineate interests, and to separate social groups. I am interested in how specific knowledge communities label and materially shape artistic and scientific objects in various contexts. People engage in rhetorical positioning through the creation of texts, making and unmaking the meanings of objects.[1] Objects can be made to fit into the knowledge networks of science,[2] art, or combinations of both.[3] For different practitioners and audiences, what counts as art or science and their associations varies in interesting ways. My work has concerned a variety of objects, and in each case I am interested in situations that destabilize the categories of art and science.

By unpacking the ways actors have used these categories, I complicate the division between the realms of art and science. My research is both analytical and speculative, asking about practices and projecting possibilities for the meanings of art and science in different contexts. Rather than going about showing, as some philosophers, historians, and science studies scholars have, the moment of divergence between science and art, I am interested in taking seriously the idea that their separation is not an easy one. My research shows that difference between art and science is not a set of axioms purported to be universal but instead is an ongoing context-dependent practice. In this case, the categories of art and science are actually produced by the discourse and material work of those who want to position themselves in the respective networks.

[1] Fan, F. (2004). British Naturalists in Qing China: Science, Empire, and Cultural Encounter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[2] Daston, L. (2007). Things that Talk: Object Lessons for Art and Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

[3] Daston, L., & Galison, P. (2007). Objectivity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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