Registration Info:

PTDW 4213

Wednesdays, 9-4

Columbus 124

6 credits (3 science, 3 studio)

Instructor Consent Required


Paola Cabal: pcabal|at|saic|dot|edu

Kathryn Schaffer kschaf2|at|saic|dot|edu








Course Description

Students interested in the subjects of time and space will have an opportunity to deepen their inquiries through a rigorous science-based lecture module immediately followed by studio time devoted to giving experiential form to these concepts. The scientific component will include the mathematical representation of positions in two, three, four, and higher-dimensional spaces, the physics of time and space measurement, special and general relativity, and the structure and history of the observable universe.  Students will be asked to articulate their understanding of specific scientific and mathematical concepts in both written and visual form, and will selectively draw from these concepts as the basis for longer-term studio projects. 

Jump to: Information Sessions | How to Apply | Q&A about this course

Information Sessions

Meet the instructors and find out more:

Monday March 27 2017, 12:15-12:45 p.m. MacLean 920

Wednesday March 29 2017, 4:15-4:45 p.m. Columbus 117

Note: These sessions are for information only. Instructors will not review portfolios or issue registration permission numbers at these sessions.

How to Apply

This class is a unique project only possible at a place like SAIC. To make the most of it, we seek students who are committed to experimenting with research-based modes of artistic practice. To be considered for entry into this class, please submit images or documentation of 3 recent works with a brief (1-paragraph) description of the role of research in making the work. Email these to both course instructors for review. Deadline extended - applications will be reviewed as they are received..

Note: if your work exceeds the email size limits, contact us to arrange submission via Dropbox.


Q. How many credits are associated with this class, and what requirements do they satisfy?

A: This class will count for 3 Science credits (Liberal Arts), and 3 Studio credits. It is the equivalent of taking two classes in one, with about the same amount of work you'd normally complete for your Science credits and about the same amount of work you'd normally commit to studio time. While it's only a six hour day, you're encouraged to think through your overall course schedule and ensure you can devote time outside of class equivalent to the amount of time you would were you taking two, separate courses.

Q: How much in-class time and out-of-class time per week will this class involve?

A: The class meets for 6 hours a week. This is less class time than you would spend if you were taking a science class (3 hours/week) and a studio class (6 hours/week) separately. Thus, to meet the standard for course credit, this class will require a significant amount of out-of-class work. In addition to weekly science homework assignments and/or readings, there will be ongoing studio and interdisciplinary studio-science projects, with some of these being individual and others being group efforts. You will also be required to attend a selection of lectures and events outside of class time that relate to class themes (you will be able to choose from several options to accommodate schedule conflicts).

Q: How will class time be structured?

A: It will vary from week to week. Some weeks will have a heavy emphasis on the science content, and some weeks will be devoted to studio work with individual meetings. Class activities will also include discussion of research practices within art and collaborative problem-solving related to understanding, communicating, and questioning scientific ideas about time and space.

Q: What's the science content of this course?

A: We will discuss how time and space are measured, how they are represented mathematically, and how scientists know about their nature and structure. We will discuss Einstein's Special and General Relativity and their implications for understanding time and space. We will explore the notion of "higher dimensional" spaces beyond three dimensional space and confront the challenges of thinking about and representing those spaces. We will consider how data can be modeled abstractly as a "space". And, finally, we will address the limitations to our knowledge of the size and extent of both space and time from a cosmological standpoint.

Q: How does the studio aspect work?

A: Here, your studio work is specifically geared towards spatiality and temporality, with the intention that you explore these concepts in alignment with your own questions, sensibilities, modes of working, and preferred materials while leveraging the additional descriptive possibilities available through scientific and mathematical paradigms.

Q: What kinds of projects/assignments will there be in this class?

A: We anticipate four types of assignments or projects. First, the science component of the course will involve several substantial written/research homework assignments to support understanding of the physical nature of space and time. Second, there will be small "studio-science" investigations that will often be done collaboratively in groups and typically involve some in-class work. These will use the problem-solving methods of artistic practice to interrogate the scientific concepts. Third, there will be longer studio projects that may be individual or collaborative, in which you will take your own directions to explore time and space, informed by what you have learned about the science. Finally, there will be writing assignments throughout the semester in response to readings and events.

Q: Will there be math?

A: Yes! There will be (almost) weekly written homework assignments or quizzes that relate directly to the science content and require you to do problem solving, apply new concepts, and analyze and reflect on readings. No particular level of proficiency with mathematics is expected or required, but an open-minded attitude towards mathematics is a must! Thinking deeply about how mathematics is used to represent time and space, and thinking about math as a representation system more generally, is one of the intellectual aims of this class. The math will involve representing positions and sizes of objects in 1, 2, 3, and higher dimensions, as well as a small amount of algebra and trigonometry. A math tutor is available through the Liberal Arts department to help if you need extra assistance catching up on your math skills.

Q: This class counts for two different kinds of credit. Is it possible to "pass" for one half and "fail" for the other, or is it an all-or-nothing thing?

A: It's all-or-nothing.