In the past decades the growing number of festivals, exhibitions and journals devoted to art and science cross-fertilisation has shown how art has become an important mediator between science and the public and, conversely, how science has become a cultural agent whose activities are increasingly characterised by aesthetic and perceptual concerns. Science centres and museums increasingly promote sci-art as a means of engaging with visitors. Intuitively, sci-art seems to be able to reach new and broader audiences fostering a more participatory way of engaging with science, although to my knowledge there are few attempts to measure and evaluate the specific impact of sci-art exhibits.

Circumscribing my talk to the context provided by science museums, I shall argue that the aesthetic dimension of science and science communication comes to the foreground also in absence of artworks or sci-art exhibits, that is through visitors’ discourses and bodily movements. It is visitors, in fact, who re-enact the aesthetics of science in their embodied sensory and cognitive experience of objects and spaces. We need to trust aesthetics and give it a bigger role in everyday science communication context and practices, also by integrating it in visitors studies. To this purpose, multi- modal analysis of video-recordings and interviews to visitors might be more suitable than traditional surveys to bring to the foreground the aesthetic dimension of science and to present it in more performative ways.

The theoretical framework of the talk is informed by the critical apparatus of visitor studies and ethnometodology integrated by recent debates in aesthetics and philosophy of the image. I will bear upon field-work (audio-visual recordings and interviews) undertaken in the context of a research project at the recently renovated Natural History Museum in Venice. As the project is still on-going, my analysis will be exploratory rather than normative, envisaging ways of dealing with the challenges encountered.

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Performing the aesthetics of science
Visitors’ talks, movements and gestures in the natural history museum in venice

Silvia Casini   Ca’ Foscari University of Venezia, Dipartimento di Filosofia e Beni Culturali

In the past decades the growing number of festivals, exhibitions and journals devoted to art and science cross-fertilisation has shown how art has become an important mediator between science and the public and, conversely, how science has become a cultural agent whose activities are increasingly characterised by aesthetic and perceptual concerns. Science centres and museums increasingly promote sci-art as a means of engaging with visitors. Intuitively, sci-art seems to be able to reach new and broader audiences fostering a more participatory way of engaging with science, although to my knowledge there are few attempts to measure and evaluate the specific impact of sci-art exhibits.

Circumscribing my talk to the context provided by science museums, I shall argue that the aesthetic dimension of science and science communication comes to the foreground also in absence of artworks or sci-art exhibits, that is through visitors’ discourses and bodily movements. It is visitors, in fact, who re-enact the aesthetics of science in their embodied sensory and cognitive experience of objects and spaces. We need to trust aesthetics and give it a bigger role in everyday science communication context and practices, also by integrating it in visitors studies. To this purpose, multi- modal analysis of video-recordings and interviews to visitors might be more suitable than traditional surveys to bring to the foreground the aesthetic dimension of science and to present it in more performative ways.

The theoretical framework of the talk is informed by the critical apparatus of visitor studies and ethnometodology integrated by recent debates in aesthetics and philosophy of the image. I will bear upon field-work (audio-visual recordings and interviews) undertaken in the context of a research project at the recently renovated Natural History Museum in Venice. As the project is still on-going, my analysis will be exploratory rather than normative, envisaging ways of dealing with the challenges encountered.

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