An Interdisciplinary Tour of the Human Condition in Three Stages: Time, Life, and Mind
Stanford University 2011-12
(aka Stanford Multidisciplinary Multimedia Meeting of Arts, Science and Humanities... SMMMASH!)
Note of 2012: click here for the program of the 2012-13 season.
Executive summary: "A multidimensional exploration of universal themes about the human condition by artists, scientists, thinkers and innovators of the Bay Area."
First series 2011-12: Time, Life, Mind (three evenings, one per quarter)
Visual artist Gail Wight (Stanford Professor of Art and Art History),
Multimedia composer Pamela Z (creator of "Baggage Allowance" and other multimedia works),
Theoretical physicist Leonard Susskind (Stanford Professor of Theoretical Physics and author of "The Black Hole War: My battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics"),
Anthropologist Jan English-Lueck (Associate Dean of the College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University, Research Affiliate at the Institute for the Future and author of several books on the anthropology of Silicon Valley)
Over the years, artists, scientists, engineers, and
humanities scholars have explored the grand
themes that define the human condition from radically
different perspectives. Too infrequently, they are given
the opportunity to listen to each other and engage in
conversations that cross boundaries and mix up
In each of the three quarters of this academic year,
we will host an evening program featuring some of the
most exciting thinkers in the Bay Area, inviting them to
talk together about one or another modest slice of the
human experience. We will start in the Fall with "Time,"
go on to "Life" in the Winter, and wrap up with "Mind"
in the Spring. We have no idea in what directions these
conversations will go, but we can guarantee that they
will be mind-expanding and memorable. We hope you
will join us for all three.
Each presenter will provide reading, viewing, or
listening material that will be posted online before
the event and that will constitute "homework" for the
audience. A brief audio interview with each of the
presenters will also be posted on the web as an introduction
to the presenter.
Each of the panels will be complemented by an art exhibit
by distinguished artists who use different media to "talk" about
the topic of the panel. The art exhibit will start 30 minutes before the
panel and will continue after the panel. The audience can download a "catalog"
of the art exhibit from this website.
Panelists for "Time" will be:
Stanford Professor of Theoretical Physics,
pioneered the idea that elementary
particles might be represented by a relativistic string,
the so-called "string theory." His research interests
have stretched from quantum field theory to quantum
cosmology. He is the author of "The Cosmic Landscape:
String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design"
(2006) and "The Black Hole War-My Battle with
Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum
Gail Wight, Associate Professor of Art at Stanford University, uses visual art to explore topics in biology and the history of science and technology. Her work engages the cultural impact of scientific practice, and plays with our constant redefinition of self through our epistemologies. Recent projects have explored deep time, and her works of art often involve other living organisms, inviting them to become co-authors in the finished work of art. She has exhibited her work at galleries, museums, and festivals throughout the US and internationally.
composer, performer, and media artist,
makes solo works combining a wide range
of vocal techniques with electronic processing, samples,
gesture-activated MIDI controllers, and video. She has
toured extensively throughout the US, Europe, and
Japan. Her multimedia work "Baggage Allowance" (that premiered in 2011)
involves vocal performance with electronic processing,
found text, recorded interviews, multi-channel
sound, interactive video, and sculptural objects.
Professor of Anthropology at San Jose State University,
and a Research Affiliate at the Institute for the Future,
has written "Chinese Intellectuals on
the World Frontier" and "Cultures@SiliconValley" and
received the American Anthropological Association's
2006 Diana Forsythe Prize. Her latest book, "Being
and Well-being: Health and the Working Bodies of
Silicon Valley", was published in 2010.
Piero Scaruffi, author, blogger and cultural historian,
has wandered from Theoretical Physics to Cognitive Science and the
Internet, while writing on music, cinema, and the arts
as well as publishing his own poetry. He has published
several books and articles including "The Nature of
Consciousness" (2006), "A History of Rock and Dance
Music" (2009), "Synthesis: Essays, Photographs, Poems"
(2009) and "A History of Silicon Valley" (2011).
The "Life" program on January 19 features:
Paul Rabinow, Professor of Anthropology at U.C. Berkeley, Director of the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory (ARC), and former Director of Human Practices for the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), is the author of "Designing Human Practices: An Experiment with Synthetic Biology " (2012); "The Accompaniment: Assembling the Contemporary" (2011); "Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary" (2007); "Anthropos Today: Reflections on Modern Equipment" (2003); "Essays on the Anthropology of Reason" (1996); "Making PCR: A Story of Biotechnology" (1993); "French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment" (1989); and "The Foucault Reader" (1984). A former lecturer at the École Normale Superieure (1997) in Paris, he was named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 1998 and was awarded the visiting Chaire Internationale de Recherche Blaise Pascal at the École Normale Superieure for 2001-2.
Christine Peterson is the co- founder and President of Foresight Institute, a public interest group that educates the community and policymakers on coming powerful technologies such as nanotechnology. She also serves on the Advisory Board of the International Council on Nanotechnology and the Editorial Advisory Board of NASA's Nanotech Briefs. Her work is motivated by a desire to help Earth's environment and traditional human communities benefit from advances in technology. She coauthored Unbounding the Future: the Nanotechnology Revolution (1991) and Leaping the Abyss: Putting Group Genius to Work (1997).
Lynn Hershman Leeson, Chair of the Film Department at the San Francisco Art Institute and Emeritus at the University of California at Davis, is a multimedia artist whose works include the first interactive laser artdisk, three award-winning feature films, photographs, sculptures, and interactive installations that use the Internet and artificial intelligence software. "The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson" was published by the University of California Press in 2005. "Women Art Revolution" (2010), based on her own archives recently acquired by Stanford Univ, is a documentary history of the feminist art movement that took 42 years to complete. She was honored by the Digital Art Museum in Berlin with the most distinguished honor for lifetime achievement in the field of new media.
Jeremy Bailenson, the founder and Director of Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) as well as Associate Professor of Communication, is a cognitive psychologist who focuses on digital human representation, especially in the context of immersive Virtual Reality. He is the co-author of "Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution" (2011).
"Mind" on April 19 will feature:
Deborah Aschheim, specializes in installations based on invisible networks of perception and thought. Her work exploring the subject of memory has led her to collaborate with musicians and neuroscientists. She has exhibited installations at venues across the country including a personal retrospective, "Deborah Aschheim: feeling-of-knowing" at San Diego State University Art Gallery (2011).
Chris Chafe, director of Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), is a composer, improvisor, cellist, and music researcher with an interest in computers and interactive performance. He is an active performer, particularly in the SoundWIRE project of real-time Internet concertizing with collaborators distributed over the world. He has released the CD "Arco Logic" (2001).
James McClelland, Chair of Stanford's Department of Psychology and founding Director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Computation, has applied connectionist models to problems in Cognitive Neuroscience and was a co-founder with David E. Rumelhart of the influential Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP) research group. They wrote together "Parallel Distributed Processing" (1986).
Jaron Lanier pioneered Virtual Reality in the early 1980s and was the Lead Scientist of the National Tele-immersion Initiative (1997-2001). Lanier's compositions, that include the symphony "Mirror/Storm" (1998), the triple concerto "The Navigator Tree" (2000) and the ballet "Earthquake" (2006) have been performed worldwide. His book "You Are Not A Gadget" (2010) was named one of the 10 best books of the year in the NY Times. Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010.