My first date was Jeremy Pickard, founder of Superhero Clubhouse.The whimsical name belies a serious endeavor by a group of theater artists to write and perform original plays inspired by the natural world.“We chose a speed dating format to absolutely guarantee interaction between artists and scientists,” Phillips said.And interact we did, with scientists sitting across artists for staccato four-minute bursts of discussion before moving onto the next.Whether taking a stream of numbers and making a forecast or a thought or emotion and making a painting, both scientists and artists can take something abstract and make it more visceral (of course the inverse can also be true).So the challenge isn’t necessarily finding common ground, it’s getting the two sides to sit down and talk.
After all, we came from such different backgrounds! On Thursday night, Positive Feedback, an initiative of the Earth Institute, the Center for Creative Research at NYU, and the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities, brought together artists and climate scientists (or climate science writer in my case) for a round of speed dating. To help practitioners of the two disciplines find common ground and develop new (professional) relationships. From Galileo’s drawings of the heavens to Darwin’s sketches of finches to the recent rise of infographics, art has long helped convey complex scientific theories and data.She creates art near water, particularly human-made systems such as stormwater drains and river diversions.“Both disciplines are essentially researching something in this world that strikes them—a phenomena, a challenge, a condition—and then formulating a response,” she said.“The essence of inquiry at its heart is incredibly similar.” And though their outputs might look different, even they share some similarities.
It turned out Jeremy was no stranger to the Lamont campus, having performed an interactive play about climate change and tree rings at October’s Open House.
Jeremy told me Superhero Clubhouse is currently looking to do a play about climate change and agriculture, a topic the International Research Institute for Climate and Society scientist James Hansen works extensively on as one of the leaders of the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) project.