The happy fact that the word for ›experience‹ and ›experiment‹ is the same in French – expérience – emerges from a culture of empiricism that drove both science and art at specific moments in Euro-American history. Appeals to empirical experience formed a figure like Monet (»only an eye«, as Cézanne is rumored to have said, »but what an eye!«).1 The capacity to master grief through the analytic transposition of tones during rigor mortis (as in the artist’s extraordinary painting of his wife Camille on her deathbed) is only one artifact indicating the triumph of data collection over romanticism, confirming the experimental meaning of experience over its emotional valence.
›Experience‹ in this empirical sense both unites and divides the domains of science and art. What counts as data? What stimulates aesthetics? That these questions are so alien to each other masks the common output of both enterprises: knowledge production. The century of disciplinary activity codified in the ›two culture‹ debate also conceals another emerging commonality in the scientific and artworld subject – a form of knowledge production I have elsewhere identified as »the server-user mode«.2 Let me put it this way: when we examine any of Monet’s series, we sense Comtean positivism and the testing of a hypothesis. But crucially for my argument, this hypothesis is not about light and atmosphere. Rather, the continuity between this modernism and our own moment lies in the artwork’s test of the capacity of the artist to become a registration device for data, and the viewer to play an active role in its interpretation. The paintings are clocks, but it is bio-perceptual processes that are being calibrated, measured, and reproduced. The hypothesis being tested regards the subject, not the object of art. Experience in this register may first be individualized to the painter, but is quickly generalized to us viewers – and in Monet’s complex backward and forward gaze, the modernist compulsion toward industrial serial production and self-regulation is coupled with the supposed universalism of timeless religious truth and the order of nature. Such reformations of the observing subject occur in parallel in science, where Ernst Mach’s relentlessly physical redaction of sense data, for example, took form as a fully monocular masculine Western subject in his 1886 rendering of the world viewed through the eye-socket and over the shoulder of the one who draws the picture.3 (fig. 1) Mach’s...
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is a Professor of Art History in the History, Theory and Criticism of
Architecture and Art program at MIT. She studies modern and contemporary
art, with a particular focus on technological modes of production,
distribution, and reception.
Die Verfahren, Produkte und Diskurse der Wissenschaft sowie der Kunst sind in umfassende kulturelle Entwicklungen eingebettet, können zugleich aber auch für diese konstituierend sein. Damit sind sie jedoch aufs Engste an die Problematik der Autorität des Wissens gekoppelt. Schließlich ist die Frage, welche Figurationen des Wissens und der Reflexion sich in beiden Bereichen und gerade an deren Schnittstelle ausbilden und halten können, immer auch daran gebunden, mit welchen Strategien Geltung hergestellt und reproduziert wird. Zwischen Autorität und Subversion vermittelnd, setzen sich die Beiträge des Bandes mit den Transformationen, mit dem Auftauchen und Verschwinden von Wissenselementen im Grenzbereich von Kunst- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte auseinander.