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The Scientist and the Magician

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Irene Brown



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a book chapter that has been published in its final definitive form by Intellect Books, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Artist Irene Brown reflects upon the conceptual and physical materials that constitute the artwork Phantasmagoria Electric, through a sequence of ten vignettes. Brown’s recent research has been into both the history of early electrical experiments, particularly those conducted in public, during the early Enlightenment; and into how those experiments are inseparable from beliefs in magical, supernatural, or extra-scientific ideas. The ten vignettes arrayed here offer a kind of pre-history of the artwork, condensing the entire range of ideas which it draws upon and makes manifest, such that the artwork is in this sense a palimpsest. Their chronological arrangement from the early modern era towards the present is not a march of progress from superstition towards enlightenment, but suggests a continuity between different forms of thought. It suggests that the scientific cast of mind can never be constituted solely of a purely instrumental reason, or aspire to universality, as sociologists of science such as Bruno Latour have long argued. Brown also suggests that the artistic imagination, in its playfulness, ability to make tangential or unexpected connections, and in its condensation of critical and creative motivations into single projects, might best be imagined as a kind of ‘partner in crime’ to the scientific imagination.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brown I

Editor(s): Edward Juler, Alistair Robinson

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Post-Specimen Encounters Between Art, Science and Curating: Rethinking Art Practice and Objecthood through Scientific Collections

Year: 2021

Pages: 250

Print publication date: 12/01/2021

Acceptance date: 09/03/2018

Number of Volumes: 1

Publisher: Intellect Books

Place Published: UK


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781789383119