Nuclear Reactions

Creating Science-Art
CP-1 and Public Commemoration

Led by
Prof. Young-Kee Kim (Deptartment of Physics, University of Chicago)
Prof. Emily Coates (Dance Studies, Yale Univ. and Yale School of Drama)
with Prof. Sam Pluta (Department of Music, University of Chicago)
assisted by Andrew Bearnot (Post-MFA Fellow, University of Chicago)
Sponsored by
Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry and Physical Sciences Division
University of Chicago

“Creating Science Art: CP-1 and Public Commemoration” is at once a science-art think-tank and an incubator for the creation of a public performance to be presented during the Chicago Pile-1 commemoration on December 1-2, 2017.

On December 2, 1942, Enrico Fermi led an experiment on the University of Chicago campus that provided scientific proof that a nuclear chain reaction could be initiated, sustained and controlled. The implications of this accomplishment were and continue to be far-reaching. Scientifically, the experiment catapulted forward the fields of nuclear physics and engineering, paved the way for such new fields as radiation biology, and played a central role in launching the era of “big science” and national laboratories. Commercially, the experiment laid the basis for the nuclear energy industry. More controversially, the experiment was an integral part of the development of nuclear fission weapons, which, through the Manhattan Project, were first manufactured in the U.S. and then deployed in a theater of war.

Twenty five years later, Henry Moore produced his sculpture “Nuclear Energy,” which depicts an ambivalent public response to the CP-1 experiment. Whether perceived as a hollowed out skull or frontal lobes, a cathedral or a gutted home, its images are once celebratory and foreboding. They uneasily co-exist, unresolved and yet spectacularly beautiful.

“Creating Science-Art” will offer invited students across the University of Chicago campus the opportunity to collaborate on their own artistic response to the science, history, and impact of the CP-1 experiment, working in the medium of performance. The project will give students the space and tools to think deeply about how, why, and to what purpose making art in dialogue with science serves.

The project will take shape through a series of workshops during the fall quarter, and draw together participants from the sciences, humanities, performing arts and visual arts. Together, we will explore the materials, means, and critical questions of creating performance in relation to science, using the nuclear physics and history of CP-1 and its aftereffects as our focal point. Our goal is to consider the past, present, and future of the CP-1 experiment from many different angles.

Movement will play a central role in our investigation and the final performance, though no expertise in dance is required. We will draw on pertinent physics and original and found texts from the history of science as source materials. Workshop participants will actively engage in the creative process by generating material through guided prompts and assignments, and performing in the culminating work. No prior experience in dance, theater, or performance is required: the project is designed to embrace participants of all abilities and backgrounds.

The final performance will be directed by choreographer Emily Coates and interweave movement and spoken text, with an original music composition by composer Sam Pluta. Physicist Young-Kee Kim, co-leader of the workshop, will guide the physics knowledge. University of Chicago faculty and outside experts on the CP-1 history and CP-1’s cultural impact will be invited to guest lecture during our workshops to enrich our understanding.  We will present the culminating work on December 2, 2017.

Participants must commit to attending all workshops, as our development time will be limited. Please contact Andrew Bearnot<> if you have any questions.

Schedule and Location

Workshop 1: Friday, October 13, 2017, 6:00pm - 9:30pm at Gray Center
Workshop 2: Saturday, October 14, 2017,  2:00pm - 5:30pm at Gray Center
Workshop 3: Friday, October 27, 2017, 6:00pm - 9:30pm at Gray Center
Workshop 4: Saturday, October 28, 2017, 2:00pm - 5:30pm at Gray Center
Workshop 5: Thursday, November 30, 2017, 6:00pm - 9:30pm at ERC
Rehearsal: Friday, December 1, 2017, 6:00pm - 9:30pm at ERC
Performance: Saturday, December 2, 2017, noon - 3:00pm at ERC

Faculty Bio

YKKim_thumb.jpgProf. Young-Kee Kim, an experimental particle physicist, is the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics at the University of Chicago. She has devoted much of her research work to understanding the origin of mass for fundamental particles by studying the two most massive particles (the W boson and the top quark), and the Higgs particle that gives mass to elementary particles.  Between 2004 and 2006, she was the scientific leader of the CDF experiment at Fermilab’s Tevatron, a collaboration with ~700 physicists from around the world. Between 2006 and 2013, she was Deputy Director of Fermilab. She is currently working on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and leading an accelerator science program “Innovations in bight beam science” at the University of Chicago. She has served on numerous national and international advisory committees, councils and boards. She was born and raised in South Korea, and earned her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Rochester in 1990. Her postdoctoral research was done at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She was an assistant, associate and full professor of physics at University of California, Berkeley before moving to the University of Chicago in 2003. Her honors include a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Ho-Am Prize, a Sloan Fellow, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science, South Korea’s Science and Education Service Medal, the University of Rochester’s Distinguished Scholar Medal, and Korea University’s Alumni Award.

emily_coates_thumb.jpgProf. Emily Coates is a dancer, choreographer, and writer. She has performed internationally with New York City Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project, Twyla Tharp, and Yvonne Rainer.  Dance career highlights include performing three duets with Baryshnikov in works by Mark Morris, Karole Armitage, and Erick Hawkins; principal roles in ballets by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins; and the breadth of Rainer’s work, from Three Satie Spoons (1961) and Trio A (1966) to her twenty-first century creations. Coates was among the last generation of NYCB dancers to work closely with Jerome Robbins, on West Side Story Suite, 2 & 3 Part Inventions, and Brandenburg.  Her work as a choreographer has been commissioned and presented by Danspace Project, Works & Process at the Guggenheim, Performa, Ballet Memphis, and Jacob’s Pillow’s Creative Development Residency, among other venues. Her theater credits include Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale (2014), directed by Liz Diamond, and Dmitry Krymov’s The Square Root of Three Sisters (2016). Her critically acclaimed evening-length performance Incarnations premiered at Danspace Project in March 2017. With particle physicist Sarah Demers, she is co-authoring a book on physics and dance, forthcoming from Yale University Press. Her awards and distinctions include the School of American Ballet Mae L. Wein Award for Outstanding Promise, a Martha Duffy Memorial Fellowship from the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Yale’s Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching, a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in the category of Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and Economics, a New York Live Arts Suitcase Fund grant, and a fall 2016 Fellowship at NYU’s Center for Ballet and the Arts. She directs the Dance Studies program at Yale and holds a secondary appointment in the Directing program at Yale School of Drama.

sam_pluta_thumb.jpgSam Pluta is a composer and electronics performer whose work explores the intersections between instrumental forces, reactive computerized sound worlds, traditionally notated scores, improvisation, audio-visuals, psycho-acoustic phenomena, and installation-like soundscapes. Since 2009, Sam has served as Technical Director and composing member of Wet Ink Ensemble, one of the premiere new music ensembles in the United States. With Wet Ink, he has written numerous works, premiered compositions by some of the leading composers of today, and performed electro-acoustic masterworks of the past century. In addition to his work with Wet Ink, Sam has received commissions and written music for groups like the New York Philharmonic, Yarn/Wire, Ensemble Dal Niente, International Contemporary Ensemble, Mivos Quartet, Mantra Percussion, and Spektral Quartet. Laptop improvisation is a core part of Pluta’s artistic practice. Performing on his custom software instrument, the Live Modular Instrument, he has toured internationally with Rocket Science, the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, and the Peter Evans Quintet, and for the past four years was named the top electronics performer in the world by the El Intruso International Critics Poll of jazz journalists. His sound-based approach to improvisation complements the timbre-rich playing of his collaborators, resulting in an improvised music with simultaneous roots in jazz, noise, and musique concrète. Sam appears as a composer and performer on over twenty albums of new music and jazz, many of which are release on his label, Carrier Records. He has received commissions from the Fromm Foundation and the Barlow Endowment and has participated in residencies at The MacDowell Colony and iPark. Sam is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Chicago, where he teaches composition, directs the CHIME Studio, and is an active organizer in the Center for Contemporary Composition. He is also Visiting Researcher at the University of Huddersfield in the UK.

andrew_bearnot_CP-1_thumb.jpgAndrew Bearnot (MFA '17, Department of Visual Art, University of Chicago) is a materialist: he thinks with and through the substance of things. Informed by a background in material science (BS, Brown University) and glass (BFA, Rhode Island School of Design), Bearnot explores moments of transcendence in the everyday. After completing his undergraduate degrees, Bearnot helped establish and coordinate the Brown/RISD Dual-Degree Program. He was awarded fellowships from Fulbright and the American-Scandinavian Foundation for research on glass-making traditions in Sweden and Denmark.  While completing his MFA at UChicago, Bearnot received a Graduate Collaboration Grant from the Art, Science, and Culture Initiative for his ongoing project Molecular Movement with collaborators in the departments of chemistry and psychology. Molecular Movement asks "what does it feel like to move like a molecule?" and explores molecular dynamics simulations as the basis for a novel movement vocabulary. This project has been presented both nationally and internationally at ComSciCon-Chicago, Hyde Park Art Center, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and the Forum on Contemporary Theory in Dehradun, India.