2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Taking Things Apart: A Scientific and Artistic Exploration


Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

Bob Haft visual arts, art history, photography , Donald Morisato genetics, molecular biology
Fields of Study
biology, literature, philosophy of science and visual arts
Preparatory for studies or careers in
biology, visual arts, sciences and the humanities.
One year of high school biology or chemistry.

Both science and art take things apart. In some instances--like the evisceration of a frog or an overly-analytical critique of a poem --the process can result in the loss of the vital force. In the best scenario, carefully isolating and understanding individual parts actually reconstitutes the original object of study, bringing appreciation for the whole that is greater than the parts. Sometimes taking things apart results in a paradigm shift: suddenly, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

In one strand of this program, we will use a biologist's tool kit to explore how living organisms function. We will learn how biology takes apart and studies life in different ways. In fall, we will focus on visual perception, beginning with anatomy, proceeding onto the logic of visual processing, and concluding with an examination of the specialized neurons and molecules involved in phototransduction. In winter quarter, we will play with the idea of mutation, exploring how genetics can be used to dissect complex processes, in addition to providing an entry point for the molecular understanding of inheritance at the level of DNA.

Another strand takes visual art as its point of departure. Here, we will combine what we learn about the anatomy and physiology of the eye with a study of how to use sight to apprehend and appreciate the world around us. We will work with different tools--charcoal pencils and camera, for example--both to take things apart, and to construct new things. During fall quarter, we will learn the basics of drawing. In winter, we will switch to using black-and-white photography as a means of studying life at a more macroscopic level than in the biology lab. Ultimately, our goal here is the same as that of the scientist: to reconstitute and reanimate the world around us.

There are ideas for which literature provides a more sophisticated and satisfying approach than either science or the visual arts. Thus, in a third strand, we will examine how literature depicts and takes apart the emotional and behavioral interactions that we call "love." Authors that we may read include Shakespeare, Stendhal, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, John Berger, Haruki Murakami and Louise Gluck.

Our goal is to weave these strands together, to produce an understanding about the world that is informed by both cognition and intuition. Throughout our inquiry, we will be investigating the philosophical issue of objectivity. This is a rigorous program that will involve lectures, workshops, seminars, studio art and laboratory science work. Student learning will be assessed by weekly seminar writing assignments, lab reports, art portfolios and exams.

Academic Website
Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
Fall $100/Winter $150 for museum fees, drawing and photography supplies.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
May 14th, 2010 New program added.