Scientific Romance

issue #00

Scientific Romance

Nina Power

Contra Spatiality

Tom Trevatt

Dreaming of Supermarket (2017)

Agata Ingarden

Uncertainty, Hypothesis, Interface

Patricia Reed

Surface breeding II (2017)

Belén Zahera

On the Ineffable Allure of Achieving Systemic Agency

Victoria Ivanova

Pentax 1 (cyclopentanone / furanone), Monoterpenoid 1.1, Methyl anthranilate

Sean Raspet

Issue #00 of _AH Journal, Scientific Romance, takes its title from a term used to describe Robert Chamber’s Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844), a speculative treaty on natural history that critics considered more a form of creative writing than a proper scientific text. Some years later, Gustavus W. Pope employed this archaism in the introduction to his novel Journey to Mars (1894), and the term then became a casual name for the literary genre of Science Fiction. This opening issue restores this label in order to unpack the productive tensions created by the collision of the two worlds that conform it. For one part, science—“hard” sciences but also social sciences such as economics or political science—and its methodologies of knowing, which outline particular versions of realisms that range from empiricist relations to the world to neoliberal frameworks for thought production. For the other, romance, which in the critical vocabulary of the 19th century was the word employed to describe a non-realist narrative, usually bound to the extraordinary and the imaginary, that presented cognitive activity as an active reflection on the world. Taking the encounter of these opposing poles as its point of departure, Scientific Romance discusses the promise of a joint epistemological endeavour towards the enlargement of our notions of the real and its complexities, towards its mapping and, ultimately, towards its intervention. In The Concept of Non-Photography, François Laruelle already describes art as “the non-scientific use of science”, “a use outside the totality of its conditions of validity or knowledge relation.” Along these lines, Scientific Romance proposes the cultural exercise of relating to the sciences in different ways to blur the distinction between realist and imaginative postures and incite a present romance between art and science based on of their shared promethean project of constructing a new reality. 

Nina Power’s text begins this issue by presenting, precisely, the (passionate) relation of science and art with concepts: a romance that alters our interpretation of them so as to reach a completely new complicity, a beneficial contamination that leads to an abstract stage of understanding. Both Tom Trevatt’s and Patricia Reed’s contributions build on this abstract approach to reality pursuing a productive porosity between different fields of knowledge, capable of facing the planetary scale of contemporary concerns. Trevatt interrogates the language that determines our political and economical discussions, proposing Charles S. Peirce's concepts of “metabolism” and “continuum” as tools to overcome the individualism that is defended by the neoclassical school of economics, towards a universalist programme that can effectively strive for political traction. Reed turns to Wilfrid Sellars’ projects of stereoscopy in order to outline the necessity of an interface between the conceptual and the physical, the mental and the material, that can provide new perspectives that can enable new possibilities of navigation, intervention and construction from within the complex reality that we inhabit. In doing so, Reed too appeals to the seductive attributes of concepts, to their romantic entanglement with reality, as potential motors for political action. Finally, Victoria Ivanova’s text focuses directly on systemic agencies by analyzing the episto-political functionings of the mediating regimes of Human Rights, finance and contemporary art. Ivanova identifies, following Suhail Malik’s and Armen Avanessian’s insights into the postcontemporary, a temporal reconstruction in which the present is no more the privileged site for political agency, and in which speculative systems—such as the above—achieve a renewed systemic efficacy by operationalizing the present from outside of itself.

The aesthetic realm as a battlefield in which to problematize human experience, and from which to inaugurate twofold movements between ideality and reality, is also discussed through the visual contributions that complete Scientific Romance. Belén Zahera departs from the biological procedure of selective breeding to negotiate this scientific praxis from within the logics and the epistemological frame of an artistic exercise, which includes digital cloning, palmistry and generative skin processes. For her part, Agata Ingarden explores the material, organic, interactions that originate in different environments from the standpoint of the sensible, in aiming at scaling up to attain a wider ecological scope. Lastly, Sean Raspet presents diagrammatic visualizations of the molecular structures of two self-produced flavours which draw parallels between the abstract and yet concrete scientific reality and other abstractions—such as the abstraction of finance—that govern global politics and economies.

Published in Madrid, July 2017. Edited by Beatriz Ortega Botas. Translated by Alberto Vallejo and Beatriz Ortega Botas. Designed by André Fincato. With the contribution of Agata Ingarden, Victoria Ivanova, Nina Power, Sean Raspet, Patricia Reed, Tom Trevatt and Belén Zahera ——— Contact: