2013-14 Catalog

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Offering Description

Taking Things Apart: A Scientific and Artistic Exploration

Winter 2014 and Spring 2014 quarters

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

Both science and art take things apart. In some instances—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 a whole greater than its parts. Sometimes taking things apart results in a paradigm shift: suddenly, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

In one program strand, we use a biologist's tool kit to explore how living organisms function. We learn how biology takes apart and studies life in different ways. In winter, we 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 spring quarter, we play with the idea of mutation, exploring how genetics is used to dissect complex processes and provide 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 combine what we learn about the anatomy and physiology of the eye with a study of using sight to apprehend and appreciate the world around us. We will work with different tools—charcoal pencils and cameras—both to take apart and to construct new things. During winter quarter, we will learn the basics of drawing. In spring, we use black-and-white photography to study 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 examine how literature depicts and dissects the emotional and behavioral interactions that we call "love." Authors we read will 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 informed by both cognition and intuition. Throughout our inquiry, we will be investigating the philosophical issue of objectivity. This is a rigorous program involving 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.

Schedule and Location
Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$50 in winter and $150 in spring for museum admission, and drawing and photography supplies.
Offered During