“Life As We Don’t Know It” begins in earnest!

Life as we don't know it text against a cosmic background

The participating artists and scientists of the Life As We Don’t Know It collaborative project met for the first time this past Friday, June 18th. Although ongoing COVID restrictions meant we had to hold our workshop over Zoom, the virtual interface didn’t dampen the group’s enthusiasm in the slightest. Our main objectives were to:

  • Make formal introductions and exchange contact information to catalyze the collaborations over the next few months.

  • Go over logistics regarding the timeline of the project and the gallery space.

  • Run a crash-course on astrobiology and adjacent disciplines, digging into the science behind “life as we don’t know it.”

  • Based on prior polling and surveys, place the cohorts into breakout rooms to discuss the astrobiological concepts that drew their interest

The workshop was organized into two main sessions: introductions/contexts and breakout room discussions.

  • The first session started with introductions from the student artists, who talked briefly about their portfolios, their preferred artistic mediums, and what inspired them as creatives. Then, Lena guided the group through a crash course in astrobiology, supplemented by short presentations from the science cohort based on their disciplines of study, including prebiotic chemistry, bacterial genetics, philosophy of science, astronomy and helioseismology, molecular biology, and geochemistry. The presentations concluded with a brief overview of interim findings of contemporary astrobiological research and preliminary recommendations of how the cohort of artists might think to tackle the question of “life as we don’t know it.”
  • The second half of the session was dedicated to group workshops involving both the science and artist cohorts, with the former guiding breakout room discussions. The main objectives of the group discussions were to discuss the latest research in astrobiology, answer pressing questions about the conditions and parameters of alien life, plan for collaborative gestures and exchange contact information, and to obtain additional input that the artists might use to steer their creations.

The workshop ended with an informal group discussion in the main zoom room that touched on everything from the emergence and evolution of colonies and the metabolic machinery of solar-system-sized organisms to the incredible visual capacities of stomatopods to the philosophical conundrums of Rick and Morty!

Altogether, the workshop proved productive and extremely generative.

The LAWDKI project is also pleased to announce that the culminating gallery will be housed at the Overture Center for the Arts in downtown Madison for the Summer 2022 exhibition cycle! The tentative dates are May 3rd – August 22nd, 2022.

To stay up-to-speed on on aliens, art, and astrobiology, and for exclusive profiles of our artists and scientists, follow LAWDKI on Twitter @UW_OoLALA.

– Kaitlin and Lena