Oct. 17 live-streamed event asks whether our dominion of the planet will end in extinction

October 17, 2017

In geologically short order, Homo sapiens has altered the planet’s atmosphere, modified its watersheds, depleted forests, shrunk ice caps, damaged soils and set the climate on a new trajectory.

This human reshaping of Earth is so dramatic that scientists have proposed we are in a new, human-driven geologic epoch, the Anthropocene, ending the Holocene that began almost 12,000 years ago. earth at night from space Download Full Image

But what enabled our species to have such influence? Does the Anthropocene represent a tipping point within our highly connected natural, social, cultural and technological systems? And what is the future of the Anthropocene: Will it bring mass extinction, or will humankind orchestrate a course correction?

On Tuesday evening, Oct. 17, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, an interdisciplinary panel of experts — historians, biologists, earth scientists and artists — will explore this unique moment in our planet's history. The event will be live-streamed on the Santa Fe Institute’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/user/santafeinst, beginning at 6:30 p.m. PDT.

The panel, “The Past, Present and Future of the Anthropocence,” will be moderated by Manfred Laubichler, President’s Professor of theoretical biology and history of biology at Arizona State University and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI).

The discussion is sponsored by the ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, a collaboration between ASU and SFI. It caps off four days of cultural and science events in Santa Fe, part of SFI’s new Interplanetary Series.

Panelists include:

  • Sander van der Leeuw is a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, co-director of the ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, and the 2012 United Nations Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation. An archaeologist and historian by training, van der Leeuw and his research team investigate the role of invention, sustainability and innovation in societies around the world.
  • D.A. Wallach is a recording artist, essayist and investor in startups and technology companies. He has been featured in GQ, Rolling Stone, Vogue and numerous other publications, and has toured with N*E*R*D, Lady Gaga and Weezer. As one half of Chester French, he has released three full-length albums and has written and performed on several others. His solo debut for Capitol Records, "Time Machine," is available now. In 2016, he made his feature film debut in "La La Land."
  • Geoffrey West is a theoretical physicist and a distinguished professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His long-term fascination in general scaling phenomena evolved into a collaborative research program on the origin of universal laws that pervade biology, and the extension of those ideas to understand social organizations such as cities and corporations. His most recent book is "Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies and Companies." 

Laubichler and van der Leeuw are co-directors of the ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems. West is an affiliated faculty member.

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First-ever Herberger Institute Day shows students the joy found in a world of arts

October 17, 2017

Workshops ranging from museum talks to design challenges to ghoulish makeup are followed by a community Meal on the Mall

Ever since Dean Steven J. Tepper arrived at ASU, he has been working on a way to bring the diverse students, faculty, staff and alumni of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts together. Given that ASU’s Herberger Institute is the largest comprehensive design and arts college in the nation, with five separate schools and an art museum, the task he set for himself was daunting.

On Oct. 12, together with the advice and support of design and arts faculty and staff, he made it happen.

The first ever Herberger Institute Day began with dozens of workshops offered by all all units — School of Art; School of Arts, Media and Engineering; The Design School; School of Film, Dance and Theatre; School of Music; and the ASU Art Museum. The workshops were open to Herberger Institute students, faculty, staff and alumni, who were encouraged to experiment with subjects outside their usual work and classes.

Video by Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

The workshops ranged from Latin social dance in the Stauffer breezeway to “Sing like an opera singer in one easy lesson!” to a librarian-led workshop on “Art and Music: Creativity in Dark Times.” In between there was laughter yoga, the great cardboard chair challenge and a workshop on queer expressionsThe workshop description: "Camp, drag, disidentification, ambivalence, criminality, utopian and dystopian temporalities — queer artists use tactics like these to challenge normativity. Have you used similar strategies in your own work? This workshop invites artists from all of the schools in HIDA to bring examples of your own work or of artists you admire to share in a dialogue about queer expressions in dance, film, theater, music, art and technology, visual art and design." in dance, film, theater, music, art and technology, visual art and design.

In the “Musical Trash and Toy Circuits” workshop, participants dug through piles of random objects with guidance from Althea Pergakis, from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, and then made music. It was, as promised in the description, “weird.”

Meanwhile, the museum conducted several workshops based on its popular Escape the Museum events and secret vault tours.

Third-year music education undergrad Katie Demassa, who had never been in the museum before Herberger Institute Day, said the event was “cool. I think I’ll go back (to the museum) now, because it was actually really fun.”

Amy Dicker, a third-year architecture undergrad who also experienced Escape the Museum, agreed.

“You joined little groups, so we got to meet new people,” she said.

Dicker said she hoped Herberger Institute Day would become an annual event, “just for the exposure to different things outside of your school.”

Digital culture undergrad Lisette Borja, who sported what looked like a nasty open wound on one of her forearms, took a behind-the-scenes tour of the costume shop and ghoulish makeup workshop. (The wound she explained, was from the workshop.)

“We got to play with cornstarch, we got to play with food dye … to make gooey bloody wounds and bruises.”

Her favorite part of the day, she said, was getting to spend time in the costume shop.

“I really really love costuming, but I’ve never done anything with it for my major,” shd said. “I liked just being in that area and seeing what the other students in that major were doing.”

It was a sentiment others seemed to share. As one group toured the costume shop, a student said aloud, “OK, this is cool. Why did I not know about this?”

Stephani Etheridge Woodson, faculty in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and director of the Herberger Institute’s Design and Arts Corps, led more than 100 students in a “Find Your People” workshop: Participants were divided into teams, and each team had to complete two challenges as part of its quest. (Sample challenge: Find the COOR covered walkway. Ask someone how they are feeling today. Based on their response, create an indie rock band album cover photo. Photograph it and post it to Instagram.) For the third challenge, the teams had to locate the dean and complete an exercise with him. The final challenge involved individual team members each picking a balloon with a “conversation starter” on it and taking it out into the world so they could continue “finding their people” as they went throughout the day.

Tepper, who had a meeting with ASU President Michael Crow after the exercises with students, took a balloon along for the president. The question on the balloon read, “What makes you feel really alive?” President Crow’s answer: “Waking up in the morning.”

During Herberger Institute Day, the dean did some sketching in a fashion class and dropped in on a choir singing a South African song. He spent time painting a “speed mural” with School of Art Associate Professor Mark Pomilio and dozens of other volunteer painters. Tepper took part in an “Open Air Mattress Talk,” where participants “used their bodies and minds to break down boundaries and have an open conversation about consent and sexual-violence prevention on campus.” He also briefly conducted a brass band.

When the workshops concluded, more than 400 people gathered for the Meal on the Mall. They sat at tables covered in bright paper and worked with specially trained graphic recorders to capture, in pictures, a record of what the day meant to them. They ate box lunches and were entertained by pop-up performances, including climate-change plays led by Micha Espinosa, faculty in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and lively music from both a jazz ensemble and the brass band, which passers-by were free to conduct themselves.

The brass band, and watching people conduct it, was Gnyanesh Trivedi’s favorite part of the day. Trivedi is a mechanical engineering major doing his master’s degree at ASU, but he has taken introduction to acting at ASU.

“That’s why I’m here at Herberger (Institute) Day,” he said. “I was a part of the plays that they put up for climate change. I played a penguin, passing judgment on humans.”

“I love theater,” Trivedi continued. “I did a little bit of theater back in my home country, which is India. And I wanted to come here and explore what theater in the United States is like. And then being an engineer it gets really painful sometimes. The stress can be overpowering, but with my acting class I really get to explore another dimension of my personality.”

Trivedi echoed those who want to see the Herberger Institute Day become a regular tradition.

“It’s so much fun,” he said. “There’s happiness all around. I think this is something that brings joy to people. This is something that should be shared with as many people as possible on as large a scale as possible.”

So what are the chances of Herberger Institute Day happening again?

“It really depends on popular demand,” Tepper said as things drew to a close. “It was worth it, but it was a lot of work. Seeing everybody smiling and singing together and playing and creating and having a good time and realizing we’re this big creative family, or even this big creative city within ASU — it’s thrilling for me as dean. But I want to make sure everybody wants to do this again, and if they do we’re definitely all behind it.”

The bigger challenge, he said, is figuring out how to more forcefully integrate curriculum.

“We have to give our students more opportunity to explore across the Herberger Institute, we’ve got to develop more research and creative teams that are building out multidisciplinary projects together. We’ve got to build our Design and Arts Corps, which is going to bring students from different disciplines together to activate and engage with community partners.

“(Herberger Institute Day) is kind of a symbol of what’s possible. It’s a way to celebrate together. But we really have to put our shoulder to the wheel and figure out how we live every day in our curriculum and in the way we work and teach and interact and research, how we live that collaboratively and across all disciplines and schools. So we have a lot more work to do. But I think this is a great first step.”

Top photo: Liberal studies sophomore Jonah Ivy (center) enjoys the Latin dance workshop with fellow Herberger Institute students Oct. 12 on the Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Deborah Sussman

Communications and media specialist , Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts