Kepler 62f: with surface color, surface bump, cloud opacity, and surface specular, courtesy NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

At the nexus of science and art is wonder. Understanding the meaning of the science and conveying it to a general audience will demand creative forms of expression. The Astrobiology Initiative will support the connections of artists working with scientists to share the significance of their findings effectively and accurately. Jennifer Parker, Director of OpenLab, is a key partner in our Art initiatives.

Featured image is the Astrobiology Initiative’s contribution to an art exhibit curated by Jennifer, What Makes Us Human: An Art + Genomics Convergence, November 12, 2020 – June 30, 2021.

To coincide with the twentieth anniversary of UC Santa Cruz posting the assembled human genome to the internet, the exhibition What Makes Us Human: An Art and Genomics Convergence assembles contributions from researchers at the cutting edge of their fields in the arts, the humanities and the sciences.

The unfolding pandemic has triggered an existential reckoning over our conceptions of place and human encounter. Twenty years after UC Santa Cruz posted the assembled human genome to the internet, we find ourselves redefining and expanding genomics while masked and socially distanced. Simultaneously, the uprisings for Black lives and all silenced and underrepresented identities have brought visibility, urgency and profound pause.

What Makes Us Human takes the doors off the traditional gallery, imagining a space which transcends those walls. Visitors will see connections between diverse academic disciplines from unique and collaborative lenses of the arts, sciences, and humanities.

Some of the inquiry conducted by these collaborators examines what it means to be something other than human, simultaneously helping reveal what makes us human. How do we talk about our humanness? Which of our taxonomies intersect? And how can (virtual) space facilitate more of these intersections? How are humans furthering creative, scientific, and scholarly research while responding to the pandemic in our institutions, in our bodies, in our environments and in our communities? How can researchers be alone together and work collectively — questioning, testing, and collaborating during COVID to educate communities at the intersection of art, culture, science, and politics?

This exhibition will showcase the multifaceted approach of artists, humanists, and scientists working across disciplines to investigate art and genetics. Spearheaded by OpenLab Collaborative Research Center in collaboration with the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery in the Arts Division, UC Santa Cruz. This initiative is designed to establish a platform for researchers to collaborate and exchange ideas.