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Science & Art Cabaret celebrates 5th season

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published October 17, 2013

“We wanted to pull science out of the stuffy lecture hall and show that it really is a creative activity: vital, lively, human and fun.”
Will Kinney, associate professor
Department of Physics

Magic. Invisible worlds. The end of the universe and the future of life.

Since 2009, the Buffalo Science & Art Cabaret has entertained the public by bringing artists and top university researchers together to discuss these and other topics in a casual setting: a basement bar.

Now, the event series is celebrating the start of its fifth season on Oct. 23 with a conversation on “Hysteresis.” The word refers to the way the history of a system influences its current state, and speakers will discuss how the theme of memory relates to fields from physics to photography.

Series co-founder Will Kinney, UB associate professor of physics, says the cabaret’s “secret sauce” is its ability to reveal how people working in diverse fields often are thinking and talking about similar problems—without knowing it.

“We started the Science & Art Cabaret in 2009 because we wanted to do something different,” Kinney says. “We wanted to pull science out of the stuffy lecture hall and show that it really is a creative activity: vital, lively, human and fun. From this perspective, mixing science and art was a natural thing to do.

“Every cabaret starts like a joke: ‘A reverend, a poet and a mathematician walk into a bar…’” he says.

“Hysteresis” will begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Ninth Ward at Babeville at 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo.

As usual, the event is free and open to the public, with a cash bar. The lineup:

  • Kinney will “introduce the most important scientific concept you have never heard of.”
  • Douglas Levere, UB and commercial photographer, will talk about his book project, “New York Changing.”
  • Hong Luo, chair of the UB Department of Physics, will talk about hysteresis, “that thing you can’t live without.”
  • Laurence Shine, Buffalo State English department faculty member, will speak on “Joyce’s obsession with mnemosets.”

The Science & Art Cabaret is a collaboration between the UB College of Arts and Sciences, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center and the Buffalo Museum of Science.

Each event in the series invites a hodgepodge of artists and researchers to share stories and work on a common topic. Past presenters have included a pastor, a psychologist, a painter, an artist who draws cadavers, an illusionist, a law school professor, an electronic music ensemble and more.

“While we always enter into each themed cabaret with confidence in the general idea and the invited participants, we can never determine how it will all play out,” says cabaret co-founder John Massier, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center visual arts curator.

“In beautifully organic/artistic/scientific fashion, we have found our diverse presenters often overlap in curious ways, calling back to each other’s ideas and confirming what we always suspected when we began this ongoing program: that there is... umm… a force that binds us all. Or two forces, perhaps, each elemental and integral to the fields of science and art: critical thinking and imagination,” Massier says.

Besides Hysteresis, the 2013-14 cabaret season will include four additional events between now and April: “Scale,” “Mapping,” “The Brain” and “Data Mine, Data Yours.”

“Both artists and scientists are exploratory creatures, investigating and re-imagining our world—and all other possible worlds,” Massier says. “Sometimes it’s not about answers, but about lots and lots of questions. The end of each cabaret, for me, always has a nice lingering effect, not because anything has necessarily been figured out, but because we've filled the air with the whiff of speculation and dreams.”