Recommend me some pseudo-scientific art please.
September 12, 2009 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Looking for examples of artists using scientific, sociological, mathematical, ethnographic, or psychological devices in their practice. Bonus points for funny.

I'm in the (very) early stages of planning an art piece and I'm looking for some inspiration and context. I'm casting a wide net, so give me whatever you can - I'll narrow down my focus as the project takes shape. If you can be fairly specific you'll save me some legwork - artists' names, specific works etc. If you suggest a movement in the arts please try to narrow it down a little bit - 'conceptualism' is far, far too broad, for example.

Don't limit yourself to the above categories - I'm grateful for anything tangentially related.

(By way of example, Sophie Calle and Gillian Wearing have both used pseudo-social-science in their practice. I'm tempted even to include something like Throwing four balls... by Baldessari, but that one's a bit of a stretch. I've heard a little about map-based psychogeographic works like The Shipping Forecast and 26 Different Endings by Mark Power, but they don't particularly interest me.)

Thank you!
posted by SebastianKnight to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe not exactly what you're looking for, but Sanborne's KRYPTOS (among other pieces) is an example of an artist who (with the help of a retired cryptographer) merged art and espionage into a most intriguing puzzle. It was installed in 1990 and as of today has still not been solved. His earlier works dealt with classified documents, so it's a good bet that this one will feature something similar once it's solved.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 1:00 PM on September 12, 2009

Carsten Nicolai: whom I discovered via butdoesitfloat the other day

Also Hiroshi Sugimoto's "Lightning Field" series, and also his photographs of mathematical models:
posted by bradbane at 1:01 PM on September 12, 2009

Here are some science- and technology-related ones:

Eno Henze makes some beautiful pictures and sculptures with scientific themes, some of them generated by computers. (See "Eno Henze interviews Eno Henze" (PDF).)

You may know Edward Tufte as an expert in information design, but he makes sculptures too, some of which are mathematically inspired.

You probably know Charles Sheeler already, but he exemplifies the modernist celebration of technology and industry.
posted by k. at 1:04 PM on September 12, 2009

Calder - geometry
Joseph Cornell - ethnographic surrealist
Brancusi - just my interpretation, but I'm gonna go with physics.
Richard Hamilton - a little on the ethnographic side, which I think all pop art is.

Just a start for now. I'll keep thinking.
posted by cachondeo45 at 1:04 PM on September 12, 2009

Olafur Eliasson has used optical theories in many of his works.

Bathsheba Grossman's rapid-prototyped sculptures are strongly rooted in mathematical concepts of symmetry, topology, and geometry.
posted by scose at 1:39 PM on September 12, 2009

Tiffany Ard is great!
posted by lukemeister at 2:01 PM on September 12, 2009

There's also Nam June Paik.
posted by k. at 2:07 PM on September 12, 2009

MC Escher.
posted by dfriedman at 2:26 PM on September 12, 2009

Margaret Wertheim and the Institute for Figuring crochet a soft coral reef using the techniques of hyperbolic geometry crochet discovered by Dr Daina Taimina.

one little pic here

video of her showing and discussing it
posted by taff at 3:33 PM on September 12, 2009

Maybe the cryptozoological scientific art of Alex CF -
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:59 PM on September 12, 2009

TED talk with Golan Levin, has many videos of his art, which incorporates a lot of technologies
posted by Nattie at 4:06 PM on September 12, 2009

Check out the work of Tim Hawkinson. He shows at Ace Galleries which have branches in New York and Los Angeles. Here are a few things he made:

An automatic autograph machine made from an old school desk, a bent fork and an old record turntable.

A large pipe organ that plays music from giant garbage bags hung like transparent bowels over the ceiling (Uberorgan)

A cannibal installation that uses motion detectors and plays cannibal music when the viewers move.

A shoe and a mop that chase the viewer around the room screaming "I am a Man" at them when they enter the space

A compendium of still photographs of his face that sense your presence and breathe, sigh and blink at you when you look at the picture.
posted by effluvia at 6:27 PM on September 12, 2009

The Los Angeles Museum of Natural History has a number of Art/Science themed exhibitions.

They commissioned a group of contemporary composers to write music for their scientific dioramas. Viewers wore ipods that triggered the music as they entered different galleries. I attended because I love John Hassel, but there were some other really beautiful pieces by other musicians---I think the exhibition was called Sonic Sounds, but it should still be referenced on their site.

The Museum also hosts The Institute for Land Management, which is a group of artists that make works related to environmental issues. Two women knit an entire coral reef, a scale interactive model of Los Angeles, a number of issues related to city dwelling.
posted by effluvia at 6:32 PM on September 12, 2009

And then there's the quirky little Museum of Jurassic Technology, which is sort of scientific fractured fairytales.
posted by effluvia at 6:34 PM on September 12, 2009

Mark Lombardi
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:43 PM on September 12, 2009

How about Wim Delvoye's Cloaca? It's an installation work, a machine that produces feces. ArtNet review here.
posted by Cuke at 9:05 PM on September 12, 2009

I want to be Julian Voss-Andreae when I grow up.

Somebody needs to do the disulfide isomers of IgG2 after all.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:18 AM on September 13, 2009

Response by poster: Wow - thanks a lot everyone, this is great stuff.

I'd really welcome anything from a social-science perspective too - think questionnaires, photographs as evidence, that sort of thing.
posted by SebastianKnight at 12:23 AM on September 13, 2009

Ken Knowlton's Portraits of Helen Keller in Braille, Einstein in dice, Samuel F.B. Morse in Morse code, Will Shortz in crossword:

Chris Jordan (be sure to see his "Prison Uniforms" ,also Dog and Cat Collars". Hell, lots of his pieces are too great to miss):

Daniel Rozin's Wooden Mirror:

Leonardo Journal:
posted by at at 11:18 AM on September 16, 2009

Melamid and Komar:

The Most and Least Wanted Paintings on the Web:
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:45 AM on September 19, 2009

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