- Sip on a glow-in-the-dark Cosmo from our no-host bar as you enjoy the cosmic music stylings of Lynda Williams, also known around the Bay Area as the Physics Chanteuse.
- Learn about cosmic dynamics with hands-on activities by OpenLab and UCSC astrophysicists, Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz.
- Journey through the universe in the Holt Digital Starlab.
- Enjoy GIANT GAMES like 4 Foot Tall Jenga-Style Blocks, Over-Sized Chess, Giant Four in a Row.
- Be the first to see NASA’s brand new image collection, “From the Earth to the Solar System”.
- Explore the entire museum under moody lighting and music as you decide whether to play a bevy of giant games, lounge in our Cosmic Cabaret, or just relax with friends!
- Limited cafe menu available for purchase.
Artists deal in making ideas visible. Science works with conceptual data, with ideas often inaccessible to non-scientists. Why couldn’t art and science collaborate more creatively in order to uncover each other’s mysteries? At least that’s what electronic sculptor Jennifer Parker wondered a year ago. And the result was OpenLab, a laboratory housed in the former foundry at Baskin Arts, where students and faculty from across the campus can come to engage in creative play.
As the “art” mastermind behind the current “Art+Astrophysics 2011” exhibit, Jennifer Parker is currently busy translating visual protocols into scientific metaphors. No stranger to the idea of technological collaboration, Parker, along with California College of the Arts professor Barney Haynes started up an art/tech thinktank called SonicSENSE in 2008. The idea here was for digital media, new technologies and classical art approaches to make space for each other. Using this mixed genre research platform as a template, Parker launched into OpenLab on the UCSC campus.
Her work gains traction at the exact point that science needs visibility and accessibility. In league with astrophysicist Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, Parker helped launch a laboratory in the UCSC Arts complex where students—and faculty practitioners—of art and science could work together. And the results seem to begin at the far edge of the sorts of interactive museum displays and interpretive guides familiar to those who have visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or the San Francisco Exploratorium. OpenLab is a place for art and science to encourage each other and make discoveries, to tap into new ways of framing and solving conceptual problems.
Cutting Edge Collaborator
“I was the kid who installed the bookcases at home,” Parker recalls. “At the age of three I was making toilet paper installations, and at five I created an entire wall shelf of cubicles. I guess it’s a kind of taxonomy, a kind of systems thinking.” She credits her Waldorf high school education and the College of Creative Studies at UCSB with helping to create an environment in which individuals can then flourish uniquely. And she hasn’t stopped.
Of her recent exhibit Art+Astrophysics 2011, created from last summer’s OpenLab Summer Institute projects, Parker says, “This work shows what’s possible when you allow for cross-disciplinary research opportunities for faculty and graduate students. ” OpenLab’s inaugural exhibition featured an interactive sound and visualization of spectral shifts in the Milky Way, as well as the visually dazzling star bowling game. “OpenLab deals with a different way of knowing something. For example “Moonsplat: Did the earth have two moons?” – we’ve made that into a 3-D zoetrope that can help us know something different about numbers by seeing them built out.”
“The core of this show,” OpenLab’s co-director explains,” is about how we teach, about solving a problem that then gets tested in the world. Our facilities up here at UCSC should allow that—peer-to peer-teaching and learning. We have affiliated research groups linked to our website,” Parker points out. “We want to attract industry as well as academics.” And Parker has done just that. MakersFactory is a 3D printing facility that has just opened in downtown Santa Cruz. Now they’re one of our partners. They have a 3-D printer, so instead of sculpting a new product, it can be printed in 3-D,” she explains.
Artistic Investment of Time and Energy
“I have always been an organizer and a collaborator, creating alternative venues for art exhibition from flea markets to science fairs, trying to get new spaces and move away from the traditional art world. Mostly I feel it is time to be doing this – the timing is good. I think Open Lab shows what happens when you devote time.” Acknowledging that her approach is that of an entrepreneur, a creativity broker, Parker firmly believes that, ” Art can ask questions without worrying about solutions in the way that science must. And as an artist and educator I feel an obligation to do that – otherwise I shouldn’t be here.”
Time and energy. “It really had to be a 24/7 commitment. SonicSENSE took three years to really unfold. And now we’re doing site specific work for the Tech Museum, and the Bay Area Science Festival at AT&T Park. We show up with lots of equipment – like a rock band setting up onstage, and then contact local talent and archives for site-specific elements.”
Lots of time and energy. Parker always shows up for her students no matter when or where. Except Sunday. In her “spare time” Parker enjoys being a mom – “I don’t work on Sundays.”
Local installation artist, Amy Boewer was the guest on Gamers on Game for October 10, 2011. Amy is Research Assistant and one of the student Founders of OpenLab at UCSC, and the Resident Artist in the UCSC AstroPhysics Department. She recently graduated from UCSC in the Art and History of Art and Visual Culture Programs.
Amy came into the KZSC radio station to talk about the current !The Exhibition Art + Astrophysics which features four exhibits illustrating astrophysical phenomena: an interactive Black Hole/Star Bowling Game; a Kepler App for iPad/iPhone; a 3D Zoetrope of Moon-Splat; and an interactive sculpture of Spectral Shifts in the Milky Way. This exhibit will be up on the 3rd floor in the DARC Light Lab until the end of October.
We also talked about Amy’s work with recent UCSC Business graduate and student founder of OpenLab, Jack O’Neil, creating the prototype of the Nomad Pad. Amy is deeply absorbed by the psychological and physical ways our bodies interact with environment. Her primary focus is to create installations and tools that users/viewers’ can enter and experience. Jack explores art for solutions through the business and economic lens. The Nomad Pad is a shelter and protection tool for urban explorers. The prototype is currently being tested by San Francisco.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
At some universities, English majors fulfill their science requirement by taking a version of “Physics for Poets.” This isn’t as whimsical or as easy as it sounds. Physics deals with fundamental ideas about time, space and matter — questions as relevant to poets as they are to mathematicians.
Physicists tend to be polymaths, so it’s not entirely surprising that Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, UC Santa Cruz professor of astronomy and astrophysics, cites the short story “The Library of Babel” by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges as his inspiration. Borges played with notions of time and space, so it’s easy to see the attraction to a budding physicist. And like Borges, Ramirez-Ruiz can fairly be called a wunderkind.
Ramirez-Ruiz uses computer simulations to explore violent phenomena such as stellar explosions, gamma-ray bursts and the accretion of material onto black holes and neutron stars. At 35, Ramirez-Ruiz is the youngest person to be inducted into the Mexican Academy of Sciences. Since joining the UC Santa Cruz faculty in 2007, he has earned numerous awards including a Packard Fellowship and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.
“Enrico is working on some of the most difficult and interesting and challenging areas in astrophysics,” said Neil Gehrels, chief of NASA’s Astroparticle Physics Laboratory. “He’s already internationally recognized. As a physicist, you have to develop a reputation, get funding and establish a research group at a major university. Enrico has done all these things at breakneck speed.”
If the accolades bring to mind a brilliant misfit, a la Russell Crowe in “A Brilliant Mind,” think again. Ramirez-Ruiz is entertaining, down-to-earth and thoughtful about the lives of people who are neither physicists nor poets. And, yes, he is rock-star handsome.
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