History of Art and Architecture

Configuring Disciplines: Online Exhibition

Visual documents such as maps, portraits, timelines and comparative tables, published in scientific atlases or grouped in collections, establish categories, arrange specimens, and present evidence for purposes ranging from popularization to professional education. In fields of inquiry requiring visual training, images delineate the features of things deemed essential for the acquisition of specialized knowledge. Through the selection of particular traits, features, or characteristics, and their representation according to established conventions or pictorial codes, images make phenomena legible and define the parameters of the knowable. This exhibition brings together an array of such images and objects largely drawn from local collections in order to examine the ways in which visualizations of different kinds contribute to shaping knowledge in various scholarly disciplines. A number of questions emerge from these documents and from juxtapositions made in the gallery space: How have graphic conventions and the properties of different media been exploited to visualize data, systems, or theories? What roles have artists played in the making of such visualizations, often considered distinct from art objects? When do art objects become visual documents revealing patterns or ideas about history, culture, or other phenomena? What kinds of broad patterns obtain across different disciplines, and what sets different disciplines apart from one another in their use of visual materials?

For more information please visit http://constellations.pitt.edu/configuringdisciplines