BAASICS.2: Artists and Scientists Speculate on the Future

With titles like "I For One Welcome Our New Overlords," "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," and "Robots from Water, Music from Light," BAASICS.2 The Future promises to be a night of slightly off-kilter takes on what the future holds. This, the second Bay Area Art & Science Interdisciplinary Collaborative Session, will take place Monday, June 18 at the ODC Theater. Organized by Selene Foster and Christopher Reiger, the event features eight short presentations by artists, scientists, philosophers, and musicians all ruminating on various utopic and dystopic possibilities for the future.

Before we stretch our minds forward into the great unknown, let's take a brief step back in time. BAASICS began as A Live Animal, a night of programming in conjunction with a July 2011 art exhibition at Root Division. Bringing together a small group of scientists, artists, and a choreographer, curators Foster and Reiger provided a deceptively simple prompt: "How should we conceive of and conduct our relationships with other species, and also with one another?"

By all accounts, A Live Animal was a thought-provoking and highly entertaining merger of art, science, and the animal kingdom. With an unexpected success on their hands, Foster and Reiger decided to repeat the format as a lecture series. Aided by an Alternative Exposure grant and additional funding from a few high-tech sponsorships, BAASICS is free and open to the public, and sure to fill up fast.

Part TED Talks, part Pop-Up Magazine, part Radiolab, BAASICS provides all the excitement of a live show (rehearsed once only!) with focused attention on a hot-button theme. Between presentations, Foster and Reiger will emcee, providing comedic transitions and snippets of retro futurism. Reiger promises there will be costumes and a fog machine.

Billing for The Future boasts an intriguing cast of characters. Joe Betts-Lacroix, a "prolific inventor" among other, equally impressive descriptors, seeks to cure aging. Leila Madrone makes interactive music-playing robots. Jamais Cascio is a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Future. Did you follow that? His very job is to predict the future, sans crystal ball. And Aaron Saenz, physicist turned journalist, is apparently optimistic about the advent of the Singularity, a moment four films and one television show have all tried desperately to prevent (see: The Terminator franchise).

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Foster and Reiger describe themselves as "science people who are artists," providing them with an interdisciplinary vantage point of both fields. However they decide to classify themselves, their enthusiasm and creative energy for bringing different conversations together is what makes BAASICS so special. Through this project, they strive to bridge what they perceive as a gap between the way artists and scientists address common issues. But a gap also exists between these two highly specialized fields and the general public. By making video documentation of the BAASICS events available online after the fact, they also hope to make the ideas presented in The Future accessible to those unable to attend, regardless of training and background.

An important step towards this goal is the approachability of the entire project. After the talks at ODC, the audience is invited to move next door to Root Division for a reception with the presenters. "Mingling is important," Foster emphasized. With new, potentially provocative images of the future fresh in their minds, the assembled crowd can continue their cross-disciplinary conversations into the night.

What might these conversations yield? Only the future holds that answer, but I will hazard a prediction, in the spirit of the event: participants will leave with more engaged visions of what's ahead, along with the urge to actively shape their own futures. Sound good? Only by attending can you prove me wrong (or, as I hope) right.

BAASICS.2 The Future will take place on June 18, 7:30pm-9:30pm at ODC Theater in San Francisco. For more information visit baasics.com.

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