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Information and Syllabus

Creative Critical Thinking:
Between Art & Science

Days: M
Time: 03:00pm - 06:00pm
Building: MCMA
Classroom: Communications 1116

Name: Robert Spahr
Office: NorthWest Annex B213
Office Hours:
T 12:00-04:00pm, R 02:00-04:00pm, & by appointment
E-mail: rspahr@siu.edu

Name: Scott Hamilton-Brehm
Office: LSIII 1009
Office Hours:
M 12:00-03:00pm & by appointment
E-mail: Scott.hamilton-Brehm@siu.edu

Course Syllabus Location: http://www.robertspahr.com/cct/

Course Listings:
Honors Seminar in Fine Arts: Creative Critical Thinking - 64628 - UHON 351F 004
Honors Seminar in Humanities: Creative Critical Thinking - 64634 - UHON 351U 006

Required Text:

* All readings will be distributed in class or available online. *


Art and Science are often viewed as opposites with different practices and artifacts. This class will explore the common creative processes that are the starting point of both endeavors. We will look closely at the ways the arts and the sciences attempt to understand and represent the world as well as the processes and practices they have in common.

Science – "an objective and rational pursuit of natural truths"

Art – "a subjective and emotional pursuit of human creativity"

The methodology to solving problems by including evaluation of: effective communication, determining trustworthiness of information through the filter of science, discriminate between information usage/application, and understanding how science intersects with society on a daily basis. Creative iterations will borrow from the disciplines of engineering, biology, cinema, music, art, design, and chemistry. This course endeavors to teach a creative iterative approach of critical thinking to achieve an empirically driven solution to fitness problems as it applies to both art and science.

This course will provide a conceptual and hands-on experience observing and learning about the world through both critical arts practice and rigorous scientific enquiry. We will explore the interdisciplinary relationships between scientists and artists looking closely at the role art, science, and technology plays in our ever changing world.


  • Increase critical skills for accurate analysis and historical knowledge of the visual arts and sciences
  • Develop technical skills for creating and analyzing visual arts and science
  • Develop an awareness of the creative process as it applies to contemporary arts practice and rigorous scientific enquiry.

Assessment Assignments:

Class projects will be completed in groups, preferably one student from arts and one student from science majors. Through at least three iterative progression classroom meetings, groups will demonstrate their assignment, collect data input from other groups, return to assignment improvements, then return for another demonstration. Projects can be documented on any suitable medium.

Group projects (2 people) are a collaborative effort developed in class and outside. Grades are assigned to individuals to guard against one doing all the work and other not doing anything.


Be sure to check back often for any updated information.

Aug 20
Course Introductions, Elements of Art, Elements of Science, Iteration Design (Prototyping), Creative Processes, Critique
Lecture Notes:
Elements of Art
Critique and Self-Portraits
Listen: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Open Studio/Lab
Project #1: Marshmallow Challenge

Aug 27
Structural optimization, Simple physical rules that develop complex form and pattern, Principles of Organization
Lecture Notes:
Principles of Organization
Leonardo's Anatomy Drawings
View in class: Martin Clayton: Leonardo - Anatomist, 06:53
Exercise: Drawing as a process of seeing and learning.

Open Studio/Lab
Project #1: Marshmallow Challenge - iteration #1

Labor Day - Classes canceled

Sep 10
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek - father of microbiology,
Describing the indescribable?

Reading: Martin Clayton: Leonardo's Anatomy Years
Exercise: Objects in bags
Plant Observation & Invention drawing exercise is due.

Open Studio/Lab
Project #1: Marshmallow Challenge - iteration #2

Sep 17
Presentation/Critique of Project #1: Marshmallow Challenge - Final iteration
Project #1 is due.

Project #1 metrics

Sep 24
Sound, What is sound?, Historical development of music
Wavelengths of sound, Italian Futurism & Dada

Steve Reich: Music as a Gradual Process
Tzara: How to Make a Dadaist Poem
Russolo: The Art of Noises

View in class:
Duchamp: Readymades
Duchamp: 3 Standard Stoppages
Man Ray: Indestructable Object
Meret Oppenheim: Object ("Breakfast in Fur"), 1936
Cage: Water Walk Score
Cage: Water Walk, 03:58
Robert Morris: Litanies & Document
Steve Reich: Pendulum Music Score
Steve Reich: Pendulum Music, 06:13
Sol Lewitt: Drawing
Eva Hesse
Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse - Read by Benedict Cumberbatch, 06:09
Eva and Franco Mattes: No Fun (2010)

Open Studio/Lab
Project #2: Sound Machine

Oct 01
Application of Sound: War, entertainment, and mystery
Exercise: Sound Walk
View in class:
Dune (7/9) Movie CLIP - The Weirding Way (1984) HD, 02:58
Opening to The Right Stuff 1992 LaserDisc, 03:57
Francis Ford Coppola: The Conversation 1974 (opening scene), 09:09

Open Studio/Lab
Project #2: Sound Machine - iteration #1

Oct 08
Presentation/Critique of Project #2: Sound Machine - Final iteration

Oct 15
Images, Communication, & Illustration
Voyager I and II spacecraft alien communication tablet

Art and Cultural Values
Exercise: Open & Closed Questions
Assign: Project #3: Interstellar Communication
Journal/Lab Notebooks are due.

Oct 22
Propaganda, Persuasion & ‘Fake News’
Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy and Sinan Aral: The Spread of True and False News Online
Perez-Rosas, Kleingberg, Lefevre, & Mihalcea: Automatic Detection of Fake News
Walter Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Thought Questions

View in class:
WSJ: Deepfake Videos Are Getting Real and That’s a Problem, Oct 2018, 09:59
Extra Web Resource:
John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 1 (1972)

Open Studio/Lab
Project #3: Interstellar Communication - iteration #1

Oct 29
Scientific Communication and Visual Communication

Open Studio/Lab
Project #3: Interstellar Communication - iteration #2
Jorge Cham - Ph.D Comics
Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell

Proposal for Project #4 is due by email. Details will be discussed in class.

Nov 05
Presentation/Critique of Project #3, Final

Nov 07 - Nov 16
Picking Your Brain, an Exploration of Art and Science
Exhibit Announcement

CP Gallery, Nov 07 - Nov 16
Reception: Nov 15, 5-7pm


Nov 12
Open Studio / Lab
Project #4: Independent Project

Nov 19
Thanksgiving Break - Class is canceled

Nov 26
Open Studio/Lab
Project #4: Independent Project - iteration #1

Dec 03
Journal/Lab Notebooks are due.
Presentation/Critique of Project #4, Final iteration

Dec 14
University Scheduled Final - 2:45-4:45pm
Presentation/Critique of Project #4, Final iteration, continued


The work in this course requires motivation, exploration, risk-taking, and most importantly, an openness to new ideas. Attendance and promptness are mandatory. The grading policy of this class is meant to encourage you to explore new ideas and take chances. Do not think in terms of "What must I do to receive an A grade", but think in terms of what you would like to learn. All assignments and projects are due at the beginning of class.

Journal/Lab Notebook:
Each student will respond to the class readings, weekly studio/lab exercises, and their own creative and critical thought processes, as well as lectures/discussions in class. Students should also document their process of critical enquiry within the journal. Think of the journal as a resource, to contain your present ideas and hints of future directions to explore.

As well every scientist carries a notebook to record observations, results, and ideas. Purposes are stated, descriptions are given, and hypothesis are created. These notebooks can and have been held as evidence in a court of law. Become accustomed to using one on a regular basis.


Each project will be graded on artistic, creative and intellectual merit.

Grades will be based on the following:

  • Originality of concept
  • Delivery (execution of the concept)
  • Documentation
  • Process
  • Craft
  • Critique participation

Your final grade will be determined by the following:

  • 30% Participation/Lab/Studio
  • 10% Journal
  • 15% Project #1
  • 15% Project #2
  • 15% Project #3
  • 15% Project #4

Extra Opportunity

Exhibition of Art and Artifacts
An exhibition in the CP Gallery of work produced during the semester. Tentatively scheduled for 11/26-12/01. Details will be discussed in class.

SIU Syllabus Attachment

SIU Syllabus Attachment - PDF