The worst disease afflicting human kind is hardening of the categories.
Artist Bob Miller
That pretty well sums up the sentiments behind Categorically Not!—an occasional series of Sunday evenings dedicated to exploring the common ground of art, science, politics and whatnot at the newly opened Santa Monica Art Studios. The evenings are hosted by noted science writer K.C. Cole (author of Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos, and other works) and take place here in the wonderful historic hangar at the Santa Monica Airport.
Categorically Not! follows from a first-Sunday-of the month science cabaret (Entertaining Science) that K.C. founded with Roald Hoffmann at the Cornelia Street Café in New York some years ago. Roald’s a poet, playwright and potter, as well as a Nobel laureate in chemistry, and their evenings combine science with music, literature—what not. We’re following the format – – taking a theme (Nothing; Heavy Metal; Vulgarization) and tossing it around.
It became clear we needed such a program here: too many good ideas and willing people, too little time, wrong coast. I began fantasizing about bringing a version of Cornelia Street west. Friends from theater, law, literature, egged us on. Then Sherry Frumkin and Yossi Govrin, who recently turned a hangar at Santa Monica airport into 30 artist studios with exhibition space offered us the perfect venue.
Since we’re in an airport/art studio instead of a cabaret, Categorically Not! will take flight in its own style. But we intend at least initially to follow the Cornelia Street format. Ideally three people from three different fields (physics, theater, art, for example) give short presentations/performances that circle a common theme (Holes, Strings, or Distillation, for example.) We will have drinks and snacks for a minimal charge, and invite people to continue the conversation at one of the airport’s restaurants.
This is not a “salon.” We want to invite the community—especially people who aren’t the usual audience for science and art, perhaps because they’ve been put off by prior experience, education or public image. We want to do our bit to dissolve the walls that separate art and science into isolated, inaccessible, often airless boxes.
The model is, of course, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, “a community museum dedicated to awareness,” founded by the late physicist Frank Oppenheimer, who called artists and scientists the official “noticers” of society.
In these times, we need the noticings of all kinds of people to help us keep our eyes open, ideas percolating, understanding growing. If such efforts don’t ultimately determine the fate of our world, at least they invite us to partake of it fully.