Category Archives: UCTV

Snakes of Knowledge

Los Angeles-based artist Alexis Smith has a long and fruitful association with UC San Diego’s Stuart Collection. Her Snake Path installation outside the University’s Geisel Library, completed in 1992, has become iconic in the campus landscape. Smith’s monumental mural Same Old Paradise marks a welcome return to the Collection.

The mural is a collage that takes its title from the narrator of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Sal Paradise, whose compulsive cross-country travels immortalized the restlessness of a generation. The work consists of eight collages superimposed on a 22-foot by 62-foot muslin backdrop. The backdrop of the collage is an idealized landscape of California orange groves, based on images used since the 1930s to decorate orange crates. As is typical of Smith’s multitextural approach, images derive from many sources, including Hollywood advertising, billboards, and road signs. The text comes from such favored writers as Kerouac, Jack London, John Dos Passos, and Raymond Chandler (the quintessential L.A. scribe). Smith had previously incorporated quotes from Thomas Gray’s “Ode on Prospect of Eton College” and John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” in Snake Path.

Same Old Paradise was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in 1987, and subsequently crated and stored. Packed away, the original had been unseen until Stuart Collection offered the mural a permanent home at UC San Diego, an offer that Alexis Smith happily accepted. The sheer size of the work proved a challenge to finding a suitable site, but after patient searching a home was found in the auditorium at the University’s new North Torey Pines Living and Learning Center, slated to be opened in 2021.

Anthony Graham, Associate Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) and an authority on Alexis Smith’s work, joins Stuart Collection’s Mary Beebe and Mathieu Gregoire to explore Smith’s collaborations with the Collection in the larger context of her career. The trio note that both Snake Path and Same Old Paradise feature “the Snake of Knowledge,” alluding to the Garden of Eden and the loss of innocence that accompanies life experience. Other prominent themes include the impact of Hollywood on American culture, California’s status as a mythic state of mind, the ideological underpinnings of mass culture, and Smith’s ironic, occasionally incongruent usage of stereotypes from recent American history (e.g., Marilyn Monroe) in her work. Graham also discusses the upcoming exhibition he’s putting together for MCASD, a comprehensive look at the fifty-year span of Alexis Smith’s creative life.

Watch Alexis Smith: Snake Path & Same Old Paradise.


AI and the Brain

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is no longer the domain of science fiction. It has become a major part of our daily lives. Ever ask Alexa to play you a song? Booked a trip online? Received customer service through chat? AI powers those interactions and is now being integrated into biological challenges.

Terry Sejnowski, Professor and Laboratory Head at the Salk Institute, uses computer modeling techniques to better understand how brain cells process, sort and store information. This line of study is creating a link between the biology of the brain and AI. As this line of inquiry evolves, questions about privacy, bias and more arise. Sejnowski explores the current reach of AI, implications for the future, and how researchers are answering the ethical dilemmas associated with AI.

Watch The Deep Learning Revolution.


CARTA: The Impact of Infectious Disease on Humans and Our Origins

As humanity experiences an epic upheaval with the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, we are painfully admonished of how throughout existence, infectious diseases have had profound influences on the evolution of their host populations.

In the case of humans, the host species has also shaped pathogen dynamics and virulence via a multitude of factors. Some ancient factors range from changes in social organization, group size, and exploitation of varied habitats and their animals and plant resources. More recently, developments including settlement, agriculture, technology, rapid long-distance travel, medicine and global economic integration continue to shape epidemics and the human host populations.

We are witnessing the results of all these factors playing out before us as we struggle with this pandemic.

Browse more programs in CARTA Presents: The Impact of Infectious Disease on Humans and our Origins.


Dangerously Hot Days are Coming

The United States is facing a potentially staggering expansion of dangerous heat over the coming decades.

Kristina Dahl, Senior Climate Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains off-the-charts deadly heat, just how bad it could get, and what we can do to avert the worst-case scenario.

She explores a recently released report that shows the rapid, widespread increases in extreme heat that are projected to occur across the country due to climate change. This combination of temperature and humidity includes conditions so extreme that a heat index cannot be measured. The results show that aggressive emissions reductions to limit global warming to 3.6 F or less would limit the intensity of the coming heat.

Dahl asks us to consider our choice: We can continue on our current path, where we fail to reduce emissions and extreme heat soars. Or we can take bold action now to dramatically reduce emissions and prevent the worst from becoming reality.

Watch Killer Heat in the United States.


Music Overcoming Barriers

Our border with Mexico is the catalyst for an impassioned and often vituperous debate about immigration, citizenship, and related issues. In the midst of this furor opportunities for mutually-beneficial fellowship are often scorned when not overlooked altogether, but a growing network of artists and musicians on both sides of the divide are working to transcend barriers, both physical and sociological, to “cross-pollinate” the two cultures. In so doing they hope to have a broader positive impact on US-Mexico relations.

Such efforts at creating camaraderie and forging cross-cultural alliances have a rich history tracing back at least one hundred and fifty years. Radio host Betto Arcos (NPR, BBC Radio 3) invited three prominent figures in Latin jazz, Afro Latin music, and other genres to discuss today’s Border initiatives within that history’s context. The guests include Martha Gonzalez, songwriter and lead singer of Quetzl and an Associate Professor at Scripps/Claremont College; Arturo O’Farrill, Artistic Director of the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance and Professor and Associate Dean at UCLA; and Jorge Castillo, Founder and Director of the annual Fandango Fronterizo festival.

One focus of the conversation is fandango as practiced in Veracruz, Mexico. Originating in Spain and Portugal in the early 18th century, the style has evolved in the New World while retaining some of fandango’s traditional features. In Veracruz fandango is often accompanied by Son jarocho music, a folkloric style that incorporates indigenous, Spanish, and African influences to reflect the region’s fabled diversity. The three panelists in this program stress that the emphasis of fandango is on community, which makes the music ideally suited to the goal of fostering brotherhood. Their lively discussion topics also include fandango’s unique characteristics; its ongoing popularity; how a neophyte may best approach the music; the balancing act between maintaining tradition and encouraging innovation; and the stresses that can arise from enthusiastic amateurism vs. trained professionalism (or inclusionary vs. “elitist”).

For both novice and seasoned veteran, Music and the Border provides an excellent overview of the vital fandango genre, Fandango Fronterizo, and their roles in lessening tensions in the border regions.

Watch Music and the Border.