November 14, 2014 - February 21, 2015
Zuckerman Museum of Art | East Galleries

Laboratory is an exhibition that is intended, in part, to demystify artistic practice (what artists do) by revealing parallels between art and scientific research and methodology. The show features six contemporary artists who visualize complex ideas and systems. Each artist’s work is paired with a historical text or rare book that illustrates a nineteenth century scientist’s experimentation into a similar field of investigation. The show includes Erik Demaine (an MIT computer science professor who uses paper and glass to create sculptural forms that have applications for deployable structures, manufacturing, and self-assembly) and Martin Demaine; Robert Daniel Flowers (who studies motion through digital animation--with references to Futurism and Cubism); Nathalie Miebach (who translates weather data through woven sculptural forms); Karen Rich Beall (a sculptor who works with parasitic forms, and ideas of attraction and repulsion, and sexuality); Lauren Redniss (who will show excerpts from her book Radioactive, which combines the love story of Marie and Pierre Curie with the history of radioactivity); and Hannah Israel (who tracks and visualizes her happiness quotient).

The pairing of contemporary artists with scientists from the past is not meant to suggest that artists are old fashioned in their predilection for the hand-made or their preference for the solitary pursuit of their goals. The comparison rests more on the independent and sometimes idiosyncratic nature of their research, the willingness to blindly dedicate oneself to this mission, and the inherent need to solve a problem.

In the nineteenth century, trained scientists and self-motivated independent scholars often pursued their investigations without direct affiliation to a public institution, such as a university or government-run research and development body. These individuals are sometimes referred to as “gentleman scientists,” and their method of working can be profitably compared to the practice of a contemporary artist. The impetus and approach of the gentleman scientist/professional artist--the keen, independent observer--is at the heart of this investigation. Though times have changed, the pursuit of knowledge remains a constant. By bridging the centuries and examining how different approaches can be applied to making sense of our world, we reveal creativity in multiple forms across disciplines and time.


For Educators

The ZMA worked with the School of Art and Design's Art Education Department to develop the following materials. A special thanks goes to Margaret Fancher and her 2014 Fall Semester 3302 students for creating these lesson plans.

Lesson Plans:
Kindergarten to 1st Grade
2nd to 3rd Grade
4th to 5th Grade
6th to 8th Grade
9th to 12th Grade

Supplemental Materials: 4th to 5th Grade, 6th to 12th grade

Image: Guests listening to sound compositions by Nathalie Miebach during the exhibition of Laboratory. Image features work by Martin Demaine and Erik Demaine (background), and Nathalie Miebach (right).