Exceptional Voices Interview Series

Thought-provoking conversations with scientists, artists, activists and thinkers. Embark on an inspiring journey and discover new destinations.

Hemispheres I

BY GAYIL NALLS

We are all in bed together on this earth and as vulnerable to each other as lovers. In Hemispheres I, a politically charged dialogue written by Harriet Mayor Fulbright, inspired by her meetings as she served in behalf of the Fulbright Program and other international delegations, is conceptualized by Gayil Nalls as an exchange between lovers in an awkward embrace. The dialogue is a metaphor for dysfunctional conversations between developed and undeveloped countries.

The art short first premiered at the Siggraph Gallery, L.A., in August 2004, where the work was projected through the OmniGlobe, a spherical projection system that included audio elements and was accompanied by an olfactory component, which surrounded the globe in an aromatic atmosphere. It was an important moment for Gayil Nalls, as it brought together film, sculpture, and scent – media that inform much of her multidisciplinary artistic practice – to produce a unique sensory, sculptural, and cinematic experience.

Also in 2004, it was exhibited on the OmniGlobe at AIR Gallery, New York, NY. In 2005, the short was included in the Cannes International Film Festival, Small Film Corner, in Cannes, France.

BY GAYIL NALLS

Hemispheres II

In Hemispheres II, Yin and Yang heads are the voice of the pained earth, lamenting humankind’s disregard for the boundaries of nature. The manipulated live-action video was first projected through the spherical OmniGlobe as part of the earth’s surface.

The art short first premiered at the Siggraph Gallery, L.A., in August 2004, where the work was projected through the OmniGlobe, a spherical projection system that included audio elements and was accompanied by an olfactory component, which surrounded the globe in an aromatic atmosphere. It was an important moment for Gayil Nalls, as it brought together film, sculpture, and scent – media that inform much of her multidisciplinary artistic practice – to produce a unique sensory, sculptural, and cinematic experience. Also in 2004, it was exhibited on the OmniGlobe at AIR Gallery, New York, NY.

A Common Destiny

JEWELL PRAYING WOLF JAMES | Activist and Lummi Indian Nation Leader

In Walking In Both Worlds, Jewell Praying Wolf James, known as Se-sealth, brings to the present the message of his ancestor, Chief Seattle, whose name he carries. “Chief Seattle said, you’re a mighty tribe now, but even you are not immune from a common destiny; your time shall come.” Jewell adds, “we’re all painted people.”

THOMAS BANYACYA | (1909-1999), Hopi Native American Traditional Elder and Leader

In The Hopi Prophecy, Thomas Banyacya, a spokesman for the Hopi high religious leaders, interprets the potentially apocalyptic message of the petroglyph on Second Mesa. The Hopi believe that our culture suffers what they call Koyaanisqatsi, meaning "crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance," that we are living out of harmony and are spiritually bankrupt. Their message is that the only hope for humankind is to return to spiritual connectedness with Mother Earth.

Aired on PBS stations nationally. PBS National Satellite Screening, First View. Winner of the Mayor’s EarthPeace Film Prize at EarthPeace International Film Festival, June 26-30, 1991, in Burlington, VT. Featured at The United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, The Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro at the Indigenous Peoples Media Center, June 1-12, 1992. Showcased at the 1992 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Showcased at DREAMSPEAKERS ’92: The First Peoples World Film Celebration, Alberta, Canada

RUSSELL MEANS | Actor and Oglala Lakota activist for Native American rights

A Message

Russell Means (1939-2012), the American-Indian (Oglala Sioux) activist and actor (Chief Chingachgook in The Last of the Mohicans) was of one of the country's most famous Native Americans. In this unscripted monologue filmed in Gallup, New Mexico, Means (then 54) calls our attention to environmental injustices, telling us that even western science has verified that the earth is a living organism in space (as Dr. James Lovelock, and then Dr. Lynn Margulis, hypothesized in the 1970's about the planet's interacting systems, defining the Gaia Theory). Means tells us, "Mother Earth is what it’s all about... She's a live being... She hurts, she feels, like you and I." The monologue was originally shown at the end of a play based on his life, "Wheels Over Indian Trails.” Coming from a long oral tradition, Means felt information, especially that about the big environmental picture, shared by all life on earth, should be out there, free to be heard. He liked the Internet age for that reason.

JOHN BAHCALL PhD | Astrophysicist, Institute for Advanced Study

BRINGING THE UNIVERSE HOME

Dr. John Bachall (1934 – 2005), a theoretical astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, with an extensive background in neutrino astronomy, stellar structure and the physics of quasars, discusses his field’s achievements and highlights some of his own pioneering work and discoveries. Pronounced a “scientific Brahmin of his time” by Dennis Overbye in the New York Times, Dr. Bahcall was a recipient of many awards including the Warner Prize, an award given by the American Astronomical Society for excellence in research. The discussion provides a unique record into a prominent mind of modern cosmology in the 21st century.

In this rare 1997 video unpublished before 2014, one of the country’s most influential and passionate advocates for the development of the Hubble Space Telescope and the pursuit of solar neutrinos, shares his finely tuned understanding of their science and its human challenge.

MARIO LIVIO PhD | Astrophysicist, The Space Telescope Science Institute

THE HUBBLE’S 25-YEAR MISSION OF DISCOVERY

At the Hubble Telescope’s 25th anniversary, seventeen years after Gayil Nalls’ first interview with Mario Livio, she sat down with him again at the Space Telescope Science Institute for a follow-up discussion exploring the Hubble Space Telescope’s extraordinary findings and its continuing work until 2020. As an expert in extrasolar planets, Dr. Livio is thoroughly engaging as he speculates about the possibility of extraterrestrial life in the universe, which he sees as the most revolutionary question in humankind’s existence, stating, “we will either discover life elsewhere or we will discover that life is extraordinarily rare.” In this nuanced interview, Mario Livio takes us on a tour to distant supernovae, explains the Hubble Constant and galaxy evolution, and not only talks about the Hubble’s extraordinary importance and impact on world society, but discusses the need for creative thinking and taking “calculated risks” in the scientific process.

MILTON WAINWRIGHT PhD | Astrophysicist, and Senior Lecturer, Sheffield University, UK

LIFE ABOVE EARTH

Milton Wainwright is a microbiologist and astrophysicist from University of Sheffield in England. He has found microorganisms in the stratosphere, which would change what we know about the distribution of terrestrial organisms, if it wasn’t for the unusual structures of these ‘biological entities’ and the circumstances of the findings that indicate their origins could be from space.

With alarming evidence suggesting panspermia (life arriving from elsewhere in the universe), he can’t figure out why more researchers aren’t joining in with low-cost balloon launches and sampling from different locations above the planet, to help clarify understandings of the possible origins of life. Alongside data showing habitable chemistry in the atmospheres of a growing number of exoplanets, Wainwright’s findings could have very radical implications for human understanding of life, the theory of panspermia, and the idea that life is a “cosmic imperative.”

“This planet is a Goldilocks planet for proving that life comes from space.”

RICHARD LOVELESS | Emeritus Professor, Arizona State University, Tempe. President at Global Connections: Art and Technology Consulting Service

THE ART OF COLLABORATION

Richard Loveless, now 80, talks about what it takes to form successful collaborations between the arts and sciences. Trans-disciplinary collaborations can inspire creativity and pioneer new ways of thinking. Richard’s work has led to the development of many symbiotic relationships, hybrid university degree programs, and allowed for collective wisdom of groups to emerge with outcomes that changed everybody.

“I avoid thinking about any collaborators as peers,” he says, “because in the real sense of the word ‘peer,’ means you’re picking people who are good at the same things you are… I want everyone in the collaborative group to be different from everyone else and they’re there because of that difference. They bring to the whole process a unique quality of mind that nobody else has.”

He thinks interdisciplinary collaboration should be a conventional mode of education and the structural foundation of all 21st century research universities. What’s new about that, you may ask? Well, he started working to make that happen over 50 years ago.

DAVID EDWARDS PhD | Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Idea Translation at Harvard University and Founder/Director, Le Laboratoire in Paris, France

REIMAGINING INNOVATION

Harvard professor David Edwards sits down with Gail Nalls in Cambridge, MA to discuss his compelling perspective on creativity and the future of innovation. As a biomedical engineer, writer, inventor, and entrepreneur, he thinks that many of the problems we face today are problems of innovation, so he is teaching students with some of the highest IQ’s on the planet about the mindsets they need to foster the creativity that will help them transform this world to a better state. Young innovators and the translation of ideas today are the subject of his book, Artscience: Creativity in the post-Google Generation (Harvard 2008).

Edwards says he’s fascinated that, “…we are in a time where 10% of people who’ve ever lived on the planet lived in the last 50 or 60 years and we’ve completely managed to invent a way to sustain this massive number of people, but it actually is not itself sustainable, so we’re at a point where it’s all got to change. How we eat, how we communicate, how we learn, how we deliver healthcare, it’s all going to be changing…”

ANJAN CHATTERJEE MD | Professor of Neurology, School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

THE NEURAL SECRETS OF OUR CREATIVITY

“There are sensory motor circuitry in the brain, there are emotional and reward circuitry in the brain and there are semantic conceptual circuitry in the brain, and out of those three things is the possibility of an aesthetic experience.”

In Anjan Chatterjee’s book The Aesthetic Brain, he explores the aesthetic sense within the terrain of neuroaesthetics. As a neuroscientist grounded in evolutionary psychology, a philosopher and an artist, he easily does justice to the plural standards of the fields of aesthetics and neuroscience, a path he may have been propelled on from an early age. Gayil Nalls speaks to him about aesthetic experiences; beauty, pleasure and reward, and how creativity and art might be strategies to produce meaning and value – as well as for survival.

RACHEL SUSSMAN MA | Artist and Researcher

ANCIENT LIVING THINGS & DEEP TIME

There are puzzling mysteries among us. Many living beings on Earth so lack distinctiveness to our eyes that we fail to recognize that they are profoundly old. Once identified, their sometimes-inconspicuous form may be gripping simply in the fact that it is alive and its remarkable age discovered. However, photographs by artist and investigator Rachel Sussman have newly inspired our sense of kinship with these ancient life forms and our understanding of their fundamental importance. Rachel Sussman’s work presents more than a physical record of time—these photographs offer a rare perspective on biological longevity and transcendence. She stated, “My hope in connecting with these organisms that are two thousand years old or older is to sort of crack open this idea of what it means to be an individual and what an individual lifespan can mean.” In the following interview, we discuss her philosophical journey to comprehend evolutionary time as well as the impact her project has had on conservation efforts.

CARLOS PÉREZ GARCÍA-PANDO PhD | Climate Scientist, Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA and Department of Applied Physics and Applied Math, Columbia University

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CLIMATE AND HEALTH

Dr. Carlos Pérez García-Pando (Climate scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Dept. of Applied Physics and Applied Math, Columbia) speaks on the environmental, health, and political challenges humanity faces this century. “Transmission and infection depend, among other issues, on social interaction, climate and the susceptibility of the population… We know pretty well the climate patterns that affect certain diseases, and we know that some of these patterns are going to be more frequent.”

“There is no way to go towards a green economy if we don’t acknowledge the environmental costs. Fossil fuels have a future environmental cost that is not taken into account, it’s not only the cost of production, transportation, distribution, it has an environmental cost which is huge and it’s global… A health cost. That we’re seeing already.”

CARLOS PÉREZ GARCÍA-PANDO PhD | Climate Scientist, Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA and Department of Applied Physics and Applied Math, Columbia University

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS CHALLENGES

Dr. Carlos Pérez García-Pando (Climate scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Dept. of Applied Physics and Applied Math, Columbia) speaks on the environmental, health, and political challenges humanity faces this century. "It's a very complex challenge because everything is interconnected -- our economy, coal and energy production is the blood of our system -- there are many interests that want to keep things as they are."

"There's definitely an amount of climate change or global warming that we already have committed to and we're going to have to adapt. We're going to have to adapt and this means... preparing our infrastructures and our response systems."

SCHDULE

Friday April, 29th

  1. 4:55 PM | Gayil Nalls, Hemispheres I | 4:13 Gayil Nalls, Hemispheres II | 1:23
  2. 5:00 PM | Common Destiny, Part 1: Jewell Praying Wolf James, Walking in Both Worlds Common Destiny, Part 2:Thomas Banyacya, The Hopi Prophecy | 60:00
  3. 6:00 PM | Russell Means, A Message | 4:33
  4. 6:05 PM | John Bahcall, Bringing the Universe Home | 59:41
  5. 7:05 PM | Mario Livio, The Hubble’s 25-Year Mission of Discovery | 1:02:13 8:07 PM | Milton Wainwright, Life Above Earth | 47:35
  6. 8:54 PM | Richard Loveless, The Art of Collaboration | 33:35
  7. 9:25 PM | David Edwards, Reimagining Innovation | 40:47

Sunday May, 1st

  1. 1:55 PM | Gayil Nalls, Hemispheres I | 4:13 Gayil Nalls, Hemispheres II | 1:23
  2. 2:00 PM | Anjan Chatterjee, The Neural Secrets of our Creativity | 1:05:17
  3. 3:05 PM | Rachel Sussman, Ancient Living and Deep Time | 37:21
  4. 3:42 PM | Carlos Pérez García-Pando, The Relationship Between Climate & Health | 16:46
  5. 3:58 PM | Carlos Pérez García-Pando, Climate Change and its Challenges | 3:47
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