Computational Studies Adds Special Speaker Series to the Equation

Paul Kaiser

Paul Kaiser

Digital artist Paul Kaiser, the latest in the College’s Computation and the Liberal Arts Colloquium (CLAC) speaker series, delivers the Common Hour talk, “Specific Bodies, Specific Thoughts,” at 12:30 p.m. Friday, February 15, 2013, in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center.

At first glance, Kaiser might seem at odds with his art. His work is all about drawing, but he himself cannot draw. It often entails dance, though he has neither dance ability nor training. It increasingly explores complex spatial arrangements in 3-D — despite his having no sense of direction (Kaiser says he gets lost as often in virtual spaces as he does in physical ones). It also relies on highly advanced code, which he cannot read, let alone program.

Despite but also because of these limitations, Kaiser has created a significant body of work for stage, gallery, screen, and public space with his two colleagues, Marc Downie and Shelley Eshkar.

Together they compose OpenEndedGroup, whose work has been presented in such venues as Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival, the ICA Boston, the Hayward Gallery, Sundance, Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, the Festival d’Automne, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, the Barbican Centre, and many others.

“The increasing prevalence of computational methods and ‘big data’ is having transformative effects in all the academic disciplines,” says Bill Barker, Bowdoin’s Isaac Henry Wing Professor of Mathematics and a CLAC Steering Committee member. 

“We now have the ability to address questions that previously could not be answered and tools to add new dimensions to artistic creativity. Bowdoin’s ‘Computational Studies Initiative’ is intended to make the College a leader in the educational response to this digital revolution, and in the process to significantly benefit every student and department in the College.

“As part of this Initiative, the Computation and the Liberal Arts Colloquium is designed to display innovative and important applications of computational techniques in a wide variety of disciplines ranging across the sciences, social sciences and the humanities.”

Previous CLAC speakers have included visiting instructor Sarah Iams who delivered the October talk, “The Zigzagging Flight of Mosquitoes and other Insects,” sharing insight into the flight patterns of mosquitoes and other insects through the analysis of data drawn from slow motion movies of mosquitoes in free flight, and Getty Foundation senior program officer Anne Helmreich, who spoke of the use of social network analysis to visualize and interpret the international art market in the late 19th century during her talk in November.

Next in the series is the April 12 workshop, “Writing about Data: Making Sense of the Science,” conducted by Judith Swan, associate director for writing in science and engineering with the Princeton Writing Program.

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