THE TRADESCANT'S ARK EXPERIMENT

Timothy Taylor [10.14.07]
Topic:

In this Edge Video, archeologist Tim Taylor conducts an experiment about making sense of things.

"There are 43 stones passing amongst you. It’s called the Tradescant's Ark Experiment and I’ve named it in honor of John Tradescant and John Tradescant, Sr. and Jr., father and son, who were collectors of things in the 17th century. They were the exhibitors of the world's first pay-to-view museum and they had a cabinet of curiosities set up in Lambeth, on the Thames, which much later was sold to Elias Ashmole and became the germ of the Ashmolean Museum. Not much of it survives, there are little parts of it in the Ashmolen Museum. What is more important is the intellectual move they made in the catalog, which John Tradescant the younger created and in which he distinguished between 2 types of things, naturalls and artificialls. He divided all the things he collected into those he thought were natural and those that were modified by human hand—what archaelogists today call artifacts."

TIMOTHY TAYLOR teaches in the Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, UK, and conducts research on the later prehistoric societies of southeastern Europe. He has presented BBC archaeology programs and he is the author of The Prehistory of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture, and The Buried Soul.

Timothy Taylor's Edge Bio Page


This is the second in a series of Edge Videos of "table-top experiments" presented as part of the 2007 Edge/Serpentine collaboration during Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon in London, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist under the leadership of Director Julia Peyton-Jones. Edge presenters were zoologist Seirian Sumner, archeologist Timothy Taylor, evolutionary biologist Armand Leroi, psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, geneticist Steve Jones, physicist Neil Turok, embryologist Lewis Wolpert, and psycholgist Steven Pinker and playwright Marcy Kahan. The live event was featured at the Serpentine as part of the Edge/Serpentine collaboration: "What Is Your Formula? Your Equation? Your Algorithm? Formulae For the 21st Century."

Writing in Sueddeutsche Zeitung ("Short Answers To Big Questions"), Feuilleton editor Andrian Kreye noted that:

The experiment is not only represents a collaboration by Brockman and Obrist's of their own work; it is also a continuation of a movement that began in the '60s on America's East Coast. John Cage brought together young artists and scientists for symposia and seminars to see what what would happen in the interaction of big thinkers from different fields. The resulting dialogue, which at the time seemed abstract and esoteric, can today be regarded as the forerunner to interdisciplinary science and the digital culture.