Peter Galison, “Time of Physics, Time of Art”

On the eve of the conference, Peter Galison sets the tone for thinking about materiality as object and idiom with his university-wide lecture.

Peter Galison, Harvard University — “Time of Physics, Time of Art”
Public Lecture – Free Admission
May 2, 2013 — 4:30pm
Robert McEwen Auditorium, Schulich School of Business

In the standard picture of the history of special relativity, Henri Poincaré’s and Albert Einstein’s reformulation of simultaneity is considered a quasi-philosophical intervention, a move made possible by their disconnection from the standard physics of the day. Meanwhile, Einstein’s engagement at the Patent Office (or Poincare’s in the Bureau of Longitude) enters the story as a lowly day job — irrelevant to fundamental work on the nature of the world. I have argued, on the contrary, that the all-too material and the most abstract notions of time cross in essential ways. In a collaboration with the artist William Kentridge (“The Refusal of Time”) we explored this intersection, pushing on history, physics, and philosophy into a more associative-imaginative register. This talk is an account of this complex of problems at the boundary of art and physics history.

Peter Galison is the Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard University, and a member of the departments of Physics and of History of Science. His main work explores the complex interaction between the three principal subcultures of twentieth century physics–experimentation, instrumentation, and theory. The volume on experiment (How Experiments End [1987]) and that on instruments (Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics [1997]) are to be followed by the final volume–Theory Machines–that is still under construction. Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps [2003] begins the study of theory by focusing on the ways in which the theory of relativity stood at the crossroads of technology, philosophy, and physics. In 1997, Peter Galison was named a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow; in 1999, he was a winner of the Max Planck Prize given by the Max Planck Gesellschaft and Humboldt Stiftung. For 2012-2013, he is the Critical Inquiry Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago.