How did the concept of scientific experiment first arise in the early modern period, and what was its relation to artistic experience? The history of science and the history of museums have put forth a variety of answers to this question, but this lecture will suggest that a key issue was the relatively late appearance of the problem of infinity. Using Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) and Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) to frame this development, the discussion will conclude with an overview of Leibniz’s phantasmorgic “Odd Thought” (1675). The piece describes a “museum of everything that could be imagined” and now reads like a strange carnival, but was apparently the first outline of Leibniz’ plan for the Prussian Academy of Science.
Greg Moynahan teaches in the History and “Science, Technology and Society” (STS) programs at Bard College. His book, Force and Form: Ernst Cassirer and the Critical Science of Germany, 1902-1919, is forthcoming from Anthem Press (London). He is presently working on a history of cybernetics and systems theory in Germany, tentatively entitled: “The Politics of Complexity: Biology, Society, and Systems Theory in Germany:1890 to the Present”
About The Speakers Series: Each semester the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College hosts a regular program of lectures by the foremost artists, curators, art historians, and critics of our day, situating the school and museum’s concerns within the larger context of contemporary art production and discourse. Lectures are open to students and faculty, as well as to the general public, and will also be documented through video and/or audio recordings, which will reside in the CCS Bard Library and Archives.