Quantum Unlearning

Thursday, March 01, 7:30 p.m.
SAIC Ballroom
112 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL
United States
Photo: Anita Evans

“Quantum unlearning” refers to the process of deep questioning that quantum physics demands from us: through physics we discover that the universe does not respect our intuitive notions about subjectivity, objectivity, knowability, categorization, and even existence itself.  In this symposium we ask whether these facts of matter matter, to individuals and communities seeking to address problems far beyond the physics lab.  Bringing scientists, scholars, and artists into conversation, we set the stage to productively dismantle, complicate, and overlap our preconceptions about what it means to know, relate, and act in the world.

This symposium begins with an introduction to quantum physics and a set of framing questions, adding insights and questions from our keynote speakers, and from a panel of SAIC student & alumni. These sessions will build up to a sustained and moderated conversation between our three keynote speakers, to which audience members and other speakers are invited to contribute.

Event Schedule:

  • 1:30 - 1:45 p.m.  Welcome: Honoring Walter Massey - Tiffany Holmes, Dean of Undergraduate Studies
  • 1:45 - 2:30 p.m.  Conveners’ Introduction - Kyle Bellucci Johanson and Kathryn Schaffer
  • 2:30 - 3:00 p.m.  Keynote Speakers’ Introductions - Gabriela Barreto Lemos, Denise Ferreira da Silva, and Charles Gaines
  • 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.  Student and Alumni Artists’ Presentations - Abraham Avnisan, University of Washington, Bothell (MFA 2015, Art and Technology Studies), Thuy-Han Nguyen-Chi (MFA 2019, Film, Video, New Media, and Animation), Joshi Radin (MA 2018, Visual and Critical Studies; MFA 2016, Photography), and Nancy Valladares (BFA 2016).
  • 4:15 - 5:45 p.m.  Keynote Conversation - Charles Gaines, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Gabriela Barreto Lemos, Moderated by Kathryn Schaffer and Kyle Bellucci Johanson. Speakers will discuss the questions and ideas raised in earlier sessions, with questions and input from members of the audience.

Gabriela Barreto Lemos is a quantum physicist currently at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, Brazil.  She is best known for her experimental investigations of the quantum phenomenon known as entanglement. In 2016 she was invited to be SAIC’s third Scientist-in-Residence, designing a new undergraduate course on Quantum Reality.  Her time at SAIC spurred several ongoing collaborative projects with artists, such as the installation "Decoherence 1.0” with Patricia Enigl and Mehul Malik (Austria), the performance  “Devagar” with VJ1mPar (Brazil), the collective “Intercluster for Critical Intimacy” with Thuy-Han Nguyen Chi and Francie Missbach (Germany) and the installation/website “The Fabric of Space-Time” with Kayla Lewis (USA). She is also currently collaborating with SAIC physicist Kathryn Schaffer to write pedagogical materials on the content and philosophical implications of quantum physics.

Denise Ferreira da Silva is Professor and Director of the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia, Visiting Professor of Law, Birkbeck-University of London (UK), and Adjunct Professor of Fine Arts, Monash University (Australia). She is the  author of the book Toward a Global Idea of Race (University of Minnesota Press, 2007).  Her research areas include Critical Racial & Ethnic Studies, Feminist Theory, Critical Legal Theory, Political Theory, Moral Philosophy, Postcolonial Studies, and Latin American & Caribbean Studies.  She has an active creative practice Poethical Readings in collaboration with artist Valentina Desideri. Her film Serpent Rain (2016, in collaboration with Arjuna Neuman) was selected for the Artist Film International (by Ballroom Marfa). Through her scholarship and artistic work, she addresses ethical questions of the global present and targets the metaphysical and onto-epistemological dimensions of modern thought.

Charles Gaines is highly regarded as both a leading practitioner of conceptualism and an influential educator at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles-based artist Charles Gaines (American, b. 1944) is celebrated for his works on paper and acrylic glass, photographs, drawings, musical compositions, and installations that investigate how rule-based procedures influence representation and construct meaning. He has had over 80 one-person shows and several hundred group exhibitions in the US and abroad including the 2007 and 2015 Biennale di Venezia. In 2015, he presented a critically acclaimed retrospective exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Hammer Museum. Gaines’ work is collected internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Los Angeles County Museum. He is represented by The Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles and Max Hetzler, Berlin and Paris. His compositions created by translating revolutionary texts into musical notation have been widely performed, most recently in Australia at the 2017 Melbourne Festival, at the Brooklyn Museum in 2016, and at the 56th Biennale di Venezia, Venice. He received a US Artist Award, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the 2015 CAA Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work, and is the 2018 honored recipient of the REDCAT award.

Kyle Bellucci Johanson is an artist and an educator at the Art Institute of Chicago.  He received his MFA from CalArts in 2016 under the mentorship of Charles Gaines.  His practice has centered on transdisciplinarity as a site for expanding critical discourse and political imaginaries through architectures of performance, pedagogy, objects, moving image, and assembly. Much of his practice is dedicated to ongoing collaborations. His work has recently been on view at Sullivan Galleries at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois), ALTES FINANZAMT (Berlin, Germany), Centro Cultual Metropolitano – MET Quito (Quito, Ecuador), The Bindery Projects (St Paul, Minnesota), and Human Resources (Los Angeles, California). Kyle’s conversations with Barreto Lemos and Schaffer on the importance of quantum physics to transdisciplinary scholarship, art-making, and social change were the spur for proposing the Quantum Unlearning symposium.

Kathryn Schaffer is a physicist and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  In her research in astrophysics and experimental nuclear physics, she developed an emphasis on studying sources of uncertainty and the logic used to transform detector data into knowledge about the world.  At SAIC her teaching and writing projects focus on the ways that physics influences worldview, and the representational challenges involved in modeling and describing the invisible world.  She was a founding co-organizer of the Conversations on Art and Science series at SAIC that began in 2011 under the leadership of former SAIC President, Walter Massey.  

This event is co-sponsored by the Conversations on Art and Science event series and the SAIC Department of Liberal Arts, with additional support from the Departments of Art and Technology Studies, and Visual and Critical Studies at SAIC as well as the Art Institute’s Department of Learning and Public Engagement.