Cropped image of Joseph Wrights Painting Experiment with an Air Pump

Art and Design share far more than many people think. Discover some of the fascinating connections between the different disciplines over the centuries.

At a Glance

  • Live online course
  • 2 hours a week
  • Tuesdays 18:00 - 20:00
  • 10 weeks: April to June
  • Tutor: Gus Subero
  • Fees from £120 to £205
  • Imperial College attendance certificate (T&Cs apply)
  • Book from 1 March 2021
Booking link

Exploring Creative Relationships between the Arts and the Sciences

This course considers historical and contemporary cross-disciplinary interactions between science, art and design. Its focus is on the productive relationship between these practices in their endeavours to understand and represent the world. We will reflect on the ways in which scientists have relied on artists to help shape and define their observation and image-making practices, and question some of the assumptions about perception and vision that underpin how images are made and used in science.

The course will look at crossovers in processes, skills, knowledge and values between the fields of art, science and design. We will discuss key concepts in current thinking on art and science and examine the social, cultural and ethical questions brought forward by artistic practices that engage with scientific themes and processes.

Class preparation and readings (see below) are optional and are only meant as suggestions for those who wish to do activities outside class.

Online Access to Course

This is a taught live online course which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time on a specific day of the week. To take part in the course you will need a suitably equipped and internet-enabled device. Please find full details and instructions below under 'Course Delivery'.

Attendance Certificate

Those who attend at least 80% of the course sessions will receive an attendance certificate from Imperial College London upon completion of the course.

Course Information

Course Programme

Course Outline (subject to possible minor alteration)

For suggested but entirely optional readings and other resources please see below under 'Materials for session preparation'.

Session 1: HOW TO READ AN IMAGE?

Images do not just mirror the world; they make it. In this introductory session we will consider how images and, more broadly, visual culture shapes our lives and social relations; how the world has 'become a picture', and how we become images within that world and its mechanisms of power. We will look at the main theoretical frameworks that inform semiotics (the science of image reading) and provide an introduction to post-structuralist theory in order to understand iconographies in terms of their connotation and denotation (what they are and what they mean), their formal analysis (composition and visual construction), as well as discursive methodology (visuals as instruments of power),

Session 2: SEEING 1

In this session we will look at the combined history of ‘seeing’ in relation to science and art and consider how technologies of vision have extended not only our perceptual knowledge of the world, but also how it is represented and understood. Further to this is the relationship of viewing mechanisms to ideas of social control and human objectification.

Session 3: SEEING 2

In this session we will look at the potential relationship of art and science through an exploration of the Hockney-Falco theory as demonstrated in the documentary Tim’s Vermeer and explore whether the notion of using scientific advancements to create art diminishes the artistry in world-renowned paintings. We will look at the responses of both the artistic and scientific communities to the Hockney-Falco theory and whether objecting to such an idea for ‘lack of documentary evidence’ (the lack of written description of the use of scientific devices by artists or by subjects of portraits) or whether it could be argued that the paintings themselves are the documentary evidence.

Session 4: MIND 1

In this session we will consider recent and historical representations and sciences of the mind and how it functions within the body to present notions of self and identity. We will consider what happens when the mind is destabilised, and how this has been the subject both of social and scientific study (and spectacle) as well as creative inspiration. This will span histories of madness, psychoanalysis, hysteria and depression, all of which have been fruitful sources of artistic production and spectacle, from Romanticism through to Surrealism and contemporary art today. From a design perspective, architectural and spatial approaches to treating, containing or managing mental disorders are important reflections of wider societal responses to such conditions.

Session 5: MIND 2

Throughout modern history, many societies - especially in the West - have had an uneasy relationship with the idea of death and its social, political and cultural meaning(s). Despite the fact the death is the most inevitable of human experiences, there is a clear desire to distance ourselves from depictions and experiences of death, likely as a result of an insurmountable human fear. In this session we will look at the way death operates not only as s sing itself but as a myth within different cultures and how different artists have dealt with this as a response to a specific cultural moment. We will look at death symbolism and how it operates in different cultures and the overlaps/opposites that may occur when reading such symbols from different perspectives. We will look at images of death used in advertising and death as a commodity. Finally, we will look at death memorials and how death can be immortalised and memorialised for different cultures and for the “consumption” of different audiences.

Session 6: NATURE

The natural world shares a long-standing relationship with scientific and artistic enquiry and, in this session, we will see how interdependence has formed between scientific exploration, technological design and visual representation. We will question definitions of nature and consider shifting perceptions of nature through history in line with socio-political trends and creative developments that allow us to perceive and imagine more of the physical and cosmological world than ever before.

Session 7: BODY 1

We will examine the body as explored and represented, inside and out, through science, art and design. In thinking about bodily boundaries we will look at concepts such as ‘abjection’, as well as questions of gender and sexuality, following Judith Butler’s argument that gender is performed not biological. Our discussion will also extend to consider ideas of the ‘posthuman’ body.

Session 8: BODY 2

This session will focus on bodies that challenge ideas of normativity. We will look at the disabled human body and how it has been represented in arts and design throughout history. We will explore formations of disability articulated in relation to notions of normality, wellbeing, hybridity, abnormality and anomaly. Our main goal is to study how different artists have used visual cultures or design practices to affirm or subvert the idea of a normative body. Our main goal is to demonstrate the ways in which disability, in ways that chime with our studies on gender, sexuality and race, can be perceived as social constructions. The lesson will, therefore, look at historical representations of disability, studies of power and privilege (Freakshows and other bodily articulations), and the relationship between body, performance and the posthuman (Supercrips and Paralympians).

Session 9: TECHNOLOGY

Technology and creative culture have always gone hand-in-hand; we examine the evolution of that relationship and look at the latest developments in digital art and information design. The Internet has liberated an era of mass user-generated amateur content but, to what extent has this changed the form/s and content of visual culture and the way that we think and behave?

Session 10: VISUAL CULTURE AND PUBLIC HEALTH

This week we will visit an online exhibition from the U.S National Library of Medicine entitled ‘Visual Culture and Public Health Posters’ and we will consider the role of graphic design in constructing and communicating healthcare messages around the world and will show how graphic design has been used to persuade, to inform and to empower. This exhibition will highlight the widespread and often subliminal nature of graphic design in shaping our environment, our health and our sense of self. We will consider the posters in relation to art, science, design, and anything else that it suggests to you, for example in relation to politics and ideology/belief systems. We will be looking at the full exhibition: Introduction, Infectious Disease, Environmental Health, Anti-Smoking Campaigns and HIV/AIDS and make notes for and discuss each section.

Materials for session preparation (optional)

Recommended Resources (optional)

Participants are under no obligation to prepare reading materials or do museum/gallery visits prior to class. This is only offered as a suggestion for those who wish to do activities outside class.

Session 1HOW TO READ AN IMAGE?

Identify images of science or health posters created by governments, institutions or organisations that you consider have a striking design or composition i.e., the visuals stand out, the design is quite eye-catching, the message is clear within the poster, etc. Be prepared to discuss your choices in terms of what you think works (or doesn't work) and the effectiveness of the poster as a visual public message. Please DO NOT bring examples of academic posters, INSTEAD bring posters that have been released for mainstream and public distribution and consumption.

Session 2SEEING 1

Visit The National Gallery (Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN; free entry!) and spend at least half an hour looking at the painting called ‘The Ambassadors’ (1533) by Hans Holbein the Younger. Then go to look at the painting called ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’ (1768) by Joseph Wright ‘of Derby’. Make notes on what you see in relation to art, science, design, and anything else that it suggests to you, for example in relation to politics and ideology/belief systems. You can also make notes about the immediate surroundings of the museum/gallery itself, the visitors, how you feel looking at the work, etc. As a complementary activity, please also watch this public lecture on Wright’s painting via the following link:

Extra reading

  • Watch the documentary: Tim’s Vermeer, Teller (Director), [DVD] [2013] [2014], available on iTunes and being ordered for Imperial library.
  • Read about the Hockney-Falco thesis on this website: Art Optics: https://wp.optics.arizona.edu/falco/art-optics/ 

Session 3SEEING 1

None

Session 4: MIND 1

  • Visit the Who Am I exhibition in the Science Museum; make notes and sketches, take photos, ready for discussion in class. https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/who-am-i 
  • Stuart Hall, Section 4.5 ‘Charcot and the performance of hysteria’ (pp.36-38) and the related Reading F: Elaine Showalter, ‘The Performance of Hysteria’ (pp.56-59) in ‘The work of representation’ (Chapter One) in “Representation.”

Extra reading

  • Foucault, M (1988) Madness and civilization: a history of insanity in the age of reason. New York: New York: Vintage Books.

Session 5: MIND 2

None

Session 6: NATURE

  • Visit the Natural History Museum. As well as the special temporary exhibitions, including The Art of British Natural History in the permanent ‘Images of Nature’ gallery, explore the museum and document an example in which science, art and design have come together to create new insights and knowledge. Be prepared to discuss your example in class.

Extra reading

  • Wulf, (2015) The invention of nature: the adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the lost hero of science. London: London: John Murray.

Session 7: BODY 1

Extra reading

  • Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.
  • Jennie Livingston (Director Producer), Paris Is Burning [DVD],
  • N. Katherine Hayles, 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press; 74th edition (15 Feb. 1999).

Session 8: BODY 2

None

Session 9: TECHNOLOGY

  • Research and bring an example of new technology and how it might also be considered from the point of view of art and/or design. How does its perceptual presentation impact on its functionality and how it is received or understood?

Extra reading

  • Sarah Cook, 2016. Information (Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art), MIT Press (16 Nov. 2016).
  • Nicholas Carr, 2016. Is Google Making Us Stupid?
  • David Weinberger, 2008. Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, Henry Holt (1 July 2008).
  • Gilles Deleuze, Postscript on the Societies of Control, October Vol. 59.
  • Sadie Plant, 1998. Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture, Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (20 Aug. 1998).

Session 10: VISUAL CULTURE AND PUBLIC HEALTH

https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/visualculture/index.html

While browsing the virtual exhibition make notes, photos and sketches of the different graphic design techniques used, such as font, colour, layout, images and how they serve to convey a particular message. Following from this, start thinking about creating a design to communicate a message about a particular subject that is important to you (must be related to science).

About Your Tutor

Photograph of Gus Subero Gus Subero is an experienced tutor at Imperial College where he teaches a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Hispanic Studies, Film Studies and the Medical Humanities.

Gus' academic research forcusses mainly on gender and representation in the contemporary media, as well as social policy and cultural representation in modern society. He is currently investigating the ways in which disability and health stigma are represented in the visual cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Course Delivery

All our online courses are taught live which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time. To take part in the course you must be able to attend the online session at the time stated for the course description.

All times stated are British Standard Time.

To take part you will need a computer, or laptop, or tablet computer, connected to the Internet. The device you use will also need to have a camera, microphone and speakers. Most devices now have these built in, but if not you might have to buy them from a computer shop and to connect them to your device.

Zoom

This course will use Zoom as its online delivery method. Zoom is very easy to use and you do not need to set up a Zoom account to use it. Near the date of your first online session you will be sent an email with a web address (or URL) that will allow you to access the course. This is called the Course Link. All you need do is click on the Course Link in the email and you will be asked to enter your name. This is the name that will be seen by your tutor and other students in the class.

Once you have entered your name you might be asked to enter a password to enter the class. The password will be included in the email sent to you. Once you enter the password you will either be taken directly into the class, or asked to wait in a virtual waiting room until the tutor is ready to let you into the class.

We have also produced a Handy Guide to Zoom [pdf] which gives you basic information on how to use it.

All courses lasting two hours have a 10 minute break in the middle.  For one hour courses there is no break.

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
20  10  £205 £120 £160
All fee rates quoted are for the whole course     Please note there is no early-bird discount available for the April intake courses

Rate Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email eveningclass@imperial.ac.uk before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate Rate

  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • South London Botanical Institute Members
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)
  • Members of the London Zoological Society
  • Members of the Kennel Club

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started. For non-language courses this is subject entirely to agreement by the tutor. For language courses it is subject to agreement by the language Coordinator conducting level assessment. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read the Terms and Conditions [pdf] before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer term
 20  10 n/a n/a w/c 26 Apr - w/e 4 Jul 2021 (10 weeks)

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 1 March 2021

Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. Please click on the blue booking link on the relevant course page noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on the course page and your applicable rate category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details before your course choice and applicant details are queried on an in-built questionnnaire which completes the process
  • The following email notifications are sent
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • Confirms payment, payment date, order number and course title
  • Should not be treated as a course-enrolment confirmation which is only sent later
2. Enrolment confirmation Sent in due course but likely not before the end of March. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Re-onfirms your course choice
  • Shows your course's term dates
  • Confirms your course' day of the week & time
3. Programme information Usually sent Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains further course details incl. classroom location and teacher contact information
  • Provides further general programme details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Any Questions?

If you have enjoyed this course, why not look at other arts and humanities evening class courses at Imperial College. This includes courses on the history of western art from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, Understanding Modern and Design, the history of film and cinema and Greek and Roman mythology in art. We also run practical courses in art and photography and creative writing classes, and a growing programme of science based evening classes.