LASER talks:
Evening of October 11th, 2018

Stanford University

by Alex Smith

Evening Speakers

Fabio Barry
Stanford Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Art History, Assistant Professor, Department of Classics on "Where Do White Temples Come From?"
Carrie Partch
Principal Investigator of Partch Lab at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California Santa Cruz on "Morning Larks and Night Owls: Differences in Human Circadian Rhythms Shed Light on How our Clock Works"
David McConville
Media Artist and Board Chair at the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) on "Beyond the Whole Earth"
Amanda Hughen
Visual Artist at Hughen/Starkweather on "Shifting Shorelines"

Where do White Temples come from?

Fabio Barry, Stanford Department of Art and Art History

According to Fabio Barry, we take often take it for granted that the ancient world was teeming with buildings, especially temples of white marble. Ancient Rome, he claims, was the exception, not the rules, to brilliant temples of white marble. Why did the Greeks build temples in marbles at all? When temples were first erected in ancient Greece, at the end of the 8th century, they were built in wood and terra cotta with polychrome patterns. The Greeks were likely inspired by the limestone and sandstone architecture in Egypt, as there was no known communication with other architectural civilizations in the Mediterranean.

The crepidoma, a series of usually three steps leading up to ancient Greek temples, likely arose from the stepped pyramids constructed previously. They functioned to raise up the Earth to sky, forming a sacred plateau, turning the temple into a supernatural object, like a new Mt. Olympus. White marble resonated the strongest, emanating purity and beautify as if it is made of light. To learn more about ancient Greek temples and its history with white marble, watch Fabio Barry's talk "Where do White Temples come from?"

Morning Larks and Night Owls:

Differences in Human Circadian Rhythms Shed Light on How our Clock Works

Carrie Partch, UCSC Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Carrie Partch studies the biological basis of which our bodies measure time and uses that to control biology and behavior. Intrinsically, we have mechanisms in our bodies that keep track of time, coordinating and synchronizing our biology with that of the terrestrial Earth. Different organisms have evolved different ways of interacting with light, created a wide breadth of circadian rhythms. Take sunflowers, for example. Throughout the day, a sunflower tracks the sunlight, and during the night, it goes into a dormant state. As it prepares for the morning sunlight, it turns toward the East, so that it can receive as much light as possible when the sun rises.

Circadian rhythms can be summarized as the power to anticipate the coming of the next day. Single-cell bacteria, up to plants, insects, and of course humans, coordinate their biologies with this 24-hour clock. At her lab, Partch studies the "core clock proteins" that drive gene expression and provide the molecular basis of our internal clocks. To find out more about Partch’s work and why some people need alarm clocks while others don’t, watch her talk “Morning Larks and Night Owls”.

Beyond the "Whole Earth"

David McConville, Buckminster Fuller Institute
In 1996, Stuart Brand was sitting on top of a building in San Francisco, dosed on LSD, reflecting on the curvature of the Earth he was looking at, and wondering why we haven't seen a picture of the entire Earth. When such images were released by NASA shortly after, because of Brand's efforts, people saw the whole Earth for the first time in the history of humanity. Seeing Earth as an interconnected system sparked deep consideration in many about our relationship as a species to our planet. Astronauts like Edgar Mitchell have reported a sudden and overwhelming epiphany upon seeing the whole Earth from space, that shifted his previously ego-centered sense of self to an "instant global consciousness." Carl Sagan has talked about the first images of Earth giving birth to modern ecological consciousness.

The Whole Earth Catalog, which first published the image of the whole Earth, drew connections between our lives and our planet, investigating whole systems. Buckminster Fuller's insights and ideas are credited by Brand as being a catalyst for the catalog. Today, though, we take these and other images of our planet for granted. To learn more about the "Whole Earth Catalog" and Buckminster Fuller, watch David McConville's talk "Beyond the ‘Whole Earth”

Shifting Shorelines

Amanda Hughen, Visual Artist, Half of the collaboration Hughen / Starkweather
Amanda Hughen is part of the collaborative Hughen / Starkweather with Jennifer Starkweather. Together, through a unique process of mailing their work back and forth altering and adding to it with each exchange, they make art about landscape. Their work is heavily researched based, with both artists spending three months or more researching the history of a location or topic of interest together, before separating and beginning the art-making. During her talk, Hughen discussed two projects: "Shifting Shorelines" and "Food Systems."

Fascinated by maps, Hughen and Starkweather embrace their roles as laypeople and consult many experts on their topics of focus in order to build a solid foundation of knowledge. With a foundation built, the artists allow their intuitions and impressions to take over, melting their mountain of facts and research into abstractions of places, ideas, and history. The result is multimedia pieces rich in texture, with attention to lines, patterns, color, and shape. Topographic markings and shapes from maps make frequent appearances. To see Hughen / Starkweather's art, and hear more about their approach to making art, watch Amanda Hughen's talk "Shifting Shorelines".