The Story of A History (2004): Excerpts

Introduction (voice / text):

Artists and scientists, if they reductively frame their object of study, nevertheless continue to situate knowledge in a way that is open to future knowledge users. If we examine the Structuralist movement of modernity we see this process repeated in intensifying measures of temporal evolution. Regardless of whether science and art have been truly historical, they have been ahistorical through subjective actors who were susceptible to misrecognition, lack of clarity, and a conflation of the production of a fragmented experiential subject. This dialectic of writing and embodiment posited then erased, builds the world and creates, in the 19th Century view, progress, but in the 21st century view, intensifications: non-representational practices that could be pure, but only, purely composite.

These two appearances of science and modern art, a-historical and contingent, abstract and particular, cause us to ask, why do modern science and art dispense with history or utilize history? They do this dispensing either to view their subject matter in a new light, or to “learn” how to do science and art. However, should we dispense with history to do these activities—science especially? If we do, how do we know where we’ve been and how to evaluate differences between previous ages and our own?

The process by which decisions made by scientists and artists become less arbitrary, therefore might be examined for the quality of practices and the particular ways in which agents have been non-specific or have generalized in turn, from particulars. With history, we can evaluate our abbreviations through knowledge of previous persons acting on knowledge and information. With an ahistorical striving towards history, we can practically accomplish our acts of production. In turn our production reproduces agent practices across time.

In the current film we enter into a beginning of Modern Science, with Galileo and Robert Boyle, practitioners of the methods of experiment and mathematics. The Story of A History: Science and Modernism begins with a fictional construction of the attempt by scientists to dispense with fiction. In using material that might have come from the mouths of these historical, scientific, and philosophical figures, we poetically “rethink” both a history that creates agent practices and those practices that deny history: in short the intensification of world events against any linear development of history.

Watch now as we see dialogues and science and art-building practices that gather meaning through concurrency and juxtaposition. Watch as we enter Galileo’s Dialogue Between Two Chief World Systems, a testament to the "truth" of the Copernican system over the Ptolemaic. It is on to the last day of discourse (on the Copernican system) between Salviati, Sagredo, and Simplicio. Simplicio is, as his name would suggest, an opponent of the system of Galileo, the Copernican, and a proponent of the argument to be dispensed with in the consensus formation of “objective science.”

From Galileo and the 17th Century we then touch down in the 19th, 20th, and 18th. But to whom are science and art credited, or to what, in the following acts? From the networks of computers that helped to produce this film, to the networks of ideas facilitated by agents in its narrative, the genesis of the invention of science and art will follow from its execution, beginning now, and intensifying, just as you watch.


A Glimpse of Act One:

Image of the phases of the moon that were "disproved" in a wash drawing style animation, showing also secondary light.

Pan down to show the painting of Cigoli, Adoration 1602.

Galileo is shown first, and then we switch to Cigoli.

Dialogue between Galileo and Cigoli, a variation on the set of events detailed in Painting the Heavens by Eileen Reeves.


Cigoli, your Adoration of the Shepherds centrally emphasizes the moon even though the subject matter of the painting is the infant son of the Holy Family. Although, if the moon were Mary, which I am not sure that it is truly celestial and immaculate like the virgin, it would incorporate again the holy family and the earthly source of the infant.


Yes, Galileo, and this is something that I am thinking of now, how to represent, with the iconography of the holy family--the correct science of astronomy. For if Mary represents the purity but also the human aspect of the divine birth, than does the moon so like Mary, necessitate a fallible, maculate surface, susceptible to our laws of motion--just like the earth?


Something to think about no doubt. The appearance of the moon's phases (to Aristotelians), I think, has interfered with the looming question of a heliocentric or geocentric universe. Rather, I am beginning to think that the moon's secondary light is an argument for a sun-centered universe. The moon presents herself to us with one part crescent and one part reflected light, a secondary light.


Let us discuss the moon and how she is lit, perhaps by a divine architect in the manner that an artist takes a candle by a bowl of fruit--where we see the presence of light in the darker aspect of the rounded fruit form.


The moon is seen in this manner. We have described the disappearance and reappearance of a dark half of the moon, as well as a similar cycle in the light of the moon. But how do we account for the presence of light in this dark half, what the Aristotelians argue is an evil essence imposed on her celestial terrain.