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Laboratories are not isolated from the world; they have always existed in relation to the space around them. Like universities, museums, hospitals, botanical gardens, and other institutions of scientific research and education, laboratories have been and still are typically located in cities. And both laboratories and cities are subject to change.
The project investigated the visual world surrounding evolutionary theory in the nineteenth century. Although Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, his first publication on evolutionary theory in 1859, contained only one illustration, evolutionary theory was indebted and gave rise to numerous images. Thus Darwin’s first diagram, showing the panorama of evolution on a fold-out page, was already a collage of pictures that came from paleontology, taxonomy, and zoology.
Self-experimentation as a practice has always existed in various contexts, but it was only at the end of the eighteenth century that it became fully accepted as a necessary step in pharmaceutical development. Mainly for ethical reasons concerning debates on the legitimacy of human experimentation, it was felt that the researcher himself should take the primary risks.
In post-revolutionary Russia, life has become an experiment. The Russian Avantgarde took the new communist society as a quasi-artistic attempt and followed the formalist idea of "art as a method" for visualization, trying to free the automated perception of the suppressed worker by way of artistic alienation in order to produce an "enlightened Proletarian" (Viktor Shklovsky).
The Virtual Laboratory (VL) was a digitization project devoted to the history of the experimentalization of life. Its main focus was the interaction between the life sciences, arts and architecture, media and technology. It consisted of two related parts: an archive and an essay section. As an archive, the VL offers numerous scans of texts and images concerning experiments, instruments, buildings, scientists, and artists between 1830 and 1930.
This project dealt with the role of visual representations in the experimentalization of life. It focused on graphic and photographic recordings of the living, such as respiration, heartbeat, voluntary and involuntary movements of the human hand, or invisible emanations of life that were said to radiate from the human body. These recordings were treated as immediate inscriptions of the living, since they were produced in close relation to the physical presence of the phenomenon in question.
This project dealt with the emergence and development of reaction-time experiments in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The reaction-time experiment has a key importance for the history of psychology and the cognitive neurosciences: starting in the 1880s, reaction-time measurements were widely conducted in order to determine the temporal relations in the human brain and nervous system.
This project investigated the concepts that constitute our present understanding of sound, hearing, and music in three different historic constellations. Knowledge about acoustics, which had been guided by the symbolic code of music far into the nineteenth century, began to be transformed step-by-step into an experimental science on hearing, which eventually reappeared in music aesthetics of the second half of the twentieth century as a reflection of music’s own medial condition.
This project investigated the relation of psycho-physiological research and musicological theory. It considered music as an experimental setup in its own right, tracing the changes in the aesthetics of music brought forth by physiological research. The point of departure was Hermann von Helmholtz's On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, first published in 1863.
During the First World War, the politically allied governments of Germany and Austria encouraged scientific commissions to conduct extensive research in their POW camps. Physical and cultural anthropologists, comparative philologists, linguists, musicologists, and lawyers gathered data on thousands of prisoners—human material—between 1915 and 1918. They considered the camps to be ethnographic research fields exported to Europe.