Alex Tamkin

Alex Tamkin

Imagining the Universe: Life on Mars with Tracy K. Smith

November State of the Arts – Imagining the Universe

The universe has always been a platform for life’s big questions. Who are we? Where did we come from? It’s a way to explore and deepen our understanding of the universe while we learn about ourselves.

“Imagining the Universe” is a collaborative campus-wide program bringing together a broad array of partners on campus and in the Bay Area.* The cosmos has long inspired our imaginations – fueling research, reflection, and creative response. There’s a lot to be learned from this vast topic. That’s why the series will host exhibitions, performances, public conversations, and courses that will bring together scientists, artists, and humanists to explore the nature of the universe.

The series kicked off with Tracy K. Smith, poet and 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Life on Mars. Smith enraptured the audience of students, writers, scientists, and dreamers with a discussion of the connections between scientific endeavor and the artistic process and a reading of poems such as “The Universe Is a House Party” and “My God, It’s Full of Stars.” While on campus, Smith also spent time discussing her process and path to poetry with undergraduate poets.

And there’s plenty more to attend! Here are just a few of the exciting upcoming speakers and events:

  • Dr. Mae Jemison, a physician and NASA astronaut who became the first African American woman to travel in space in 1992 aboard the space shuttle Endeavour
  • Alyson Shotz, a Brooklyn-based artist who has been exhibited around the world, including at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, and here on campus at the Li Ka Shing Center at the School of Medicine
  • Matthew Ritchie, a British artistwhose work has been exhibited at institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art
  • Performances of Holst’s The Planets and Nolan Gasser’s Cosmic Reflection, and Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo
  • Loose in Some Real Tropics: Robert Rauschenberg’s “Stoned Moon” Project will be exhibited at the Cantor Arts Center

Students will even be able to incorporate this theme into their studies by enrolling in the winter quarter course Thinking About the Universe: From Metaphysics and Theology to Data-Driven Science and Beyond, a Thinking Matters freshman introductory course taught by Peter Graham (Physics), Peter Michelson (Physics), and Thomas Ryckman (Philosophy).

For the full list of “Imagining the Universe” events and more information on speakers, performances, and exhibitions, please visit the Arts Institute website.

We hope you’ll join us – we promise you’ll have a new appreciation the next time you take a look up at the night sky.