Dr. Linda D. Henderson: "Boccioni, Elasticity and Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, and the 'Matter' of the Ether"

For our last open spring seminar, we're happy to welcome Dr. Linda D. Henderson (University of Texas at Austin) for a talk on Boccioni, Marinetti, and the science of the infinitesimal.

2015.05.21 | Jakob Gaardbo Nielsen

Date Thu 11 Jun
Time 15:15 17:00
Location Aarhus University, Langelandsgade 139 DK-8000, Building 1584, room 124

Image (c) University of Texas (Austin)

Distinguished Teaching Professor Dr. Linda Dalrymple Henderson from the University of Texas at Austin visits Aarhus for at talk on the boundaries between the human and the non-human, as envisioned by early twentieth century artists such as Boccioni and Marinetti in the context of the science of the infinitesimal, as it became known and articulated by ether physicists such as Oliver Lodge.


"We are accustomed to encountering human-machine hybrids in early 20th-century art and literature—in works from Marcel Duchamp to Umberto Boccioni and F. T. Marinetti.  But another kind of transgression of the boundary between human and non-human occurred in this period in the context of the contemporary science of the infinitesimal that so engaged Boccioni and Marinetti.  Ether physicists such as Sir Oliver Lodges proposed that the matter composing everything—both  organic and inorganic—was a product of the interaction of electrons and the space-filling ether.  Elasticity and vast energies were basic themes in discussions of the ether by figures like Lodge, whose writings were well-known in Italy.  This talk offers a new reading of two of Boccioni’s key works of 1912-13, along with his developing art theory, in this context."


Linda Henderson is David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, with a PhD from Yale University. Her research and teaching focus on the interdisciplinary study of modernism, particularly the relation of modern art to geometry, science and technology, and mystical and occult philosophies. Her publications on art/science interactions include among others the interdisciplinary anthology, From Energy to Information: Representation in Science and Technology, Art, and Literature, co-edited with literature scholar Bruce Clarke (Stanford University Press) and the monograph The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art (Princeton University Press, 1983; new ed., MIT Press, 2013). She has also written extensively about 20th century artists in this framework of technology, including Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works(Princeton, 1998).

She is currently working on a book project titled “The Energies of Modernism: Art, Science, and Occultism in the Early 20th Century” which centers on what she has termed “vibratory modernism” (2002) or, more recently, “the vibratory cultures of modern art.”  Recovering concepts such as the ether as well as the impact of discoveries like X-rays, radioactivity, and the electron, the book will restore the long-missing popular scientific (and occult) contexts in which early 20th-century artists transformed the representation of matter and space or transcended it completely in totally abstract styles.