The class “Practices of Observation” is part of the University Lecture Program that instigates a transdisciplinary dialogue across graduate programs at The New School. It aims to provoke dialogue about practices of attention and observation, and invent new ways of looking. What exactly does it mean to “observe”? Observation is neither neutral nor passive—the very process of looking can both shape the thing being observed and change the person who is doing the looking.
Students explore the ways that the very act of structured attention changes the perceiver(s) and by extension creates new experiences and understandings. How have past practices of observation actually defined what we know about the world? How can structured and documented observations instigate change?
Inspired by precedents— e.g. the archives of everyday life created by the British Mass Observation Movement; practices used by German polymath Alexander von Humboldt; current research of the Observational Practices Lab: objectamerica.org.— students develop their own experimental ways to observe an object, from the rigorously structured to the playfully absurd.
These new practices of observation—including senses, specialized instruments, and speculation—are developed, conducted and recorded in the conceptual framework of Fluxus event scores linking back to John Cage’s teaching at The New School during the 1950s. This collection of “Observation Event Scores”—brief verbal or visual notations—will inspire students to apply different ways of looking at their object of investigation.