VIS 159/ICAM 150 History of Art and Technology

Professor Lisa Cartwright

Winter 2015

Thursdays 6:30-9:20, Pepper Canyon 106, UCSD Sixth College Campus

Professor Cartwright’s contact and office hours:, Catalyst Lab, SME 204, Wednesdays 11-1. (The Structural and Materials Engineering Building is on Warren Campus. Walk past the Trion statue and the back gate of the VAF. Across from the VAF’s blue wall is the SME outer stairway. Take it to the 2nd floor. Room 204 is 2 doors in on your right.)

Teaching assistants:

Cara Baldwin

Stefani Byrd

Stephanie Sherman

Catalog course description:

Aims to provide historical context for computer arts by examining the interaction between the arts, media technologies, and sciences in different historical periods. Topics vary (e.g., Renaissance perspective, futurism and technology, and computer art of the 1950s and 1960s). Prerequisites: none.

Professor’s course description for Winter 2015:

The premise of this class is that the role of the artist who engages with science and technology is not only to interpret, borrow, and communicate ideas that come from science and technology, but also to be an active partner in determining the direction of technoscience research, knowledge and innovation.

We will consider design, influence, and collaboration across art, science and technology. Class lectures provide a survey of art and visual culture including installation and mixed media work; experimental music, sound and radio work; and photography, film and digital media art from the late 19th century to the present. Featured are works that have incorporated concepts from science and technology or have involved collaborations between artists, scientists and technicians. Areas of science and technology considered include biology, genetics, ecology, medicine, physics, astronomy, nanotechnology, artificial life, kinetics, robotics, computer science, telecommunications, and more.

In addition to considering visual and audio documentation and accounts of artists, composers and their science and technology collaborators, the course examines relevant art criticism and theory writings and explores emerging scientific and technological research and experimentation that is historically relevant and/or culturally significant now. Every week will be devoted to a different theme with required reading, and students will be asked to maintain a blog that incorporates their own ideas in relation to the reading and lecture, in addition to a midterm and a final project. There is no final exam.

The professor will also suggest current resources such as related events and initiatives at and outside UCSD. These may be useful for students who want to engage in this kind of practice themselves, and for those who want to look further into artistic, design, curatorial, critical, or historical career options with an emphasis on art and technology.

Required reading

Stephen Wilson, Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science and Technology, MIT 2002


1) Complete these three forms of graded work: (a) weekly entries in a blog consisting of a paragraph or more, to be graded by your TA (50% of total grade); (b) midterm project (25% of grade) due on Tuesday, Feb 17 at midnight; and (c) a final project due to your TA in format and place he or she specifies, by midnight on Tuesday, March 17 (25% of grade).

2) Read required texts and/or view/listen to assigned material in advance of class meetings when assigned.

3) Attend lecture and discussion sections. Please notify your TA about any special circumstances such as illness or emergency that will impact attendance or completion of assignments, so we can help you come up with a plan. Missed classes will impact grade and excessive absence may result in failure. There is no attendance grade, however, excessive missed classes may lower your grade or result in failure.

4) Ask your professor and/or your TA if you do not understand, cannot keep up, or want some help understanding concepts. Also ask us if you want further reading or more in-depth discussion – it will be our pleasure to provide this. Because the class is open to a spectrum of students including non-majors, the level and content will be broad. If you find the class too easy or too hard, attend office hours and ask for a fine-tuned adjustment to fit your interests.

5) Participate in discussion sections is requested and encouraged. Respectful and constructive engagement is expected. If you tend to speak up a lot, try to be a good listener and encourage other less outgoing students to jump in. If you tend not to speak up, jump in anyway – we want you to enjoy discussing ideas even if this class topic in not something you knew a lot about before you started. If you have a question chances are others in the room are wondering the same thing, so ask it. Not all ideas start out as verbal constructs, yet discussion is mostly verbal. If you have something you cannot articulate well in words, try putting it out there anyway—we will listen and help while you work out the idea you are trying to articulate. There is no discussion grade, however, discussion contributions may improve your overall grade at TA discretion.

6) Respond. We ask you to please remember to fill out your CAPE evaluation in the final weeks of class. We thank you in advance for taking the time to do so!  

ADA Statement

It is the teaching team’s intention to support the full participation of all students in the learning process of this class.  Situations may occur in which the physical needs or learning style of individual students is not met by the instructional climate.  It is the teaching team’s expectation that students who require specific and/or additional support to participate in class, to acquire the course content, or to demonstrate their achievement of course objectives will inform the professor and the TA of their needs immediately.

You may look into support through the following two campus resources, OSD and ACES:

UCSD OSD (Office of Students with Disabilities):

Office: University Center 202, M-F 8-4:30 (general email) (requests for deaf/hard of hearing services) (annual OSD art exhibit information)

858.534.4382 (Voice)  858.534.4650 (Fax)

UCSD ACES (Accommodation Counseling and Consulting Services):

Office: 10280 N. Torrey Pines Road, Suite 348
Paula Doss, Director, ACCES (858) 534-6744, Voice: (858) 534-6744 and Fax: (858) 534-0190


Week 1: Art as Research (Jan 8)

Wilson 1-51

Week 2: Biology / Genetics / Bioengineering/ Plants and Animals (Jan 15)

Wilson 53-126

Jackie Stacey, “Masculinity, Masquerade, and Genetic Impersonation: GATTACA‘s Queer Visions”

In-class viewing:

Locomotion in Water, Hanna Rose Shell, 2005, 13 minutes

Gattaca, Andrew Niccol, 1997 (1 hour 45 minutes)

Week 3: Body / Ecology (Jan 22)

Wilson 128-148

In-class viewing:

Selection of works by/about Critical Art Ensemble at

Fat of the Land, Sarah Lewison (1994)

Monsanto Hearing Sarah Lewison and Sarah Kanouse (2012)

Week 4: Body and Medicine (Jan 29)

Wilson 149-200

Week 5: Physical sciences / Rapid prototyping / GPS / Materials and natural phenomena (Feb 5)

Reading: Wilson 201-259 (optional: to 281)

Week 6: Science Fiction (Feb 12)

Presentation by Professor Sherryl Vint of UC Riverside, author of Science Fiction for thePerplexed and editor of the journals Science Fiction Studies and Science Fiction Film

**Midterm Assignment due by midnight Feb 17**

Week 7: Algorithms, Information, Fractals, and A-Life (Feb 19)

Wilson 295-366

Week 8: Robotics and Kinetics / Sound sculpture and industrial music / Magnetic tape recording (Feb 26)

Wilson 367- 456

Week 9: Digital information systems/video/VR (Mar 5)

Wilson 603-726

Week 10: The affective arts: Motion, Gesture, Haptics, Gaze, manipulation and Activated Objects /

Surveillance (Mar 12)

Wilson 728-848

**Final Assignment due by midnight March 17**

(No final exam—ignore university-posted schedule)

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