Rebels with a Cause

As Dr. Henry Powell notes in “Irish Women of Resilience,” until the late 20th century the history of Ireland is a sad one. The Emerald Isle had the great misfortune of proximity to an aggressively expansionist, colonialist power that went on to dominate ad exploit the Irish people for nearly 700 years. That period was further scarred by famine, failed rebellions, civil war, and religious repression.

In response to the Irish people’s yearning for solace and preservation of cultural identity, the aisling (ASH-ling) was developed in the late 17th and 18th centuries as a uniquely Irish poetic genre. Aisling means “dream” or “vision,” and in the verses Ireland appears to the poet as a woman, frequently young and beautiful but occasionally old and haggard, who laments the current state of affairs in Éireann and predicts a revival, a resurgence of the Gaelic nation. Often this revival is linked to the return of the House of Stuart to the British and Irish thrones. Powell explains that women have long held a special place in Gaelic culture and literature, especially poetry, and the aisling is emblematic of that revered status.

“She is a girl and would not be afraid to walk the whole world with herself.”
– Lady August Gregory, poet

After establishing the importance of women in the collective Irish consciousness Powell turns his attention to women who have had a profound impact on Irish society in more recent times, including Hazel Martin (Lady Lavery) , an early Irish nationalist; the renowned ”Rebel Countess” Constance Markievicz, who advised women preparing for insurrection to “Dress suitably in short skirts and sitting boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver;” popular novelist Elizabeth Bowen, who cast a sharp eye on social mores; Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone, artists and lifelong companions who rocked the art establishment by introducing cubism to Ireland; the first female President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and her immediate successor Mary MacAleese; crusading journalist Nell McCafferty, who pursued the most powerful judicial figures in the country; and Mary Raftery, who exposed and documented decades of systemic abuse of children in State-funded, Church-run institutions.

This list is, of course, only a sampling of women who have influenced Irish society in virtually all respects. Powell notes that while each of these women has a unique story, their commonality is a fierce devotion to justice and a disdain for societal conventions meant to control, hinder, and demean women. Ireland is ending its first century of independence with increased prosperity and a forward-thinking, modern outlook, and that is due in no small part to resilient – some might say stubborn, but admiringly – Irish women.

Watch Irish Women of Resilience with Henry Powell – Osher Online Lecture Series.

The Red Tide of 2020

With a confluence of unusual ocean conditions during the early spring of 2020, glowing blue waves wowed the world during Southern California’s recent history-making red tide event. But waves were only the stimulus and conveyance for what was really glowing in the ocean.

Join Scripps Institution of Oceanography bioluminescence expert Mike Latz and dive into the world of living light, get an insider’s look at the most recent red tide event, learn why scientists still have so many questions about this natural phenomenon, and get some insight into how Mike was compelled to dedicate much of his oceanographic career to understanding this bioluminescent event.

Watch The Red Tide of 2020.

Snakes of Knowledge

Los Angeles-based artist Alexis Smith has a long and fruitful association with UC San Diego’s Stuart Collection. Her Snake Path installation outside the University’s Geisel Library, completed in 1992, has become iconic in the campus landscape. Smith’s monumental mural Same Old Paradise marks a welcome return to the Collection.

The mural is a collage that takes its title from the narrator of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Sal Paradise, whose compulsive cross-country travels immortalized the restlessness of a generation. The work consists of eight collages superimposed on a 22-foot by 62-foot muslin backdrop. The backdrop of the collage is an idealized landscape of California orange groves, based on images used since the 1930s to decorate orange crates. As is typical of Smith’s multitextural approach, images derive from many sources, including Hollywood advertising, billboards, and road signs. The text comes from such favored writers as Kerouac, Jack London, John Dos Passos, and Raymond Chandler (the quintessential L.A. scribe). Smith had previously incorporated quotes from Thomas Gray’s “Ode on Prospect of Eton College” and John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” in Snake Path.

Same Old Paradise was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in 1987, and subsequently crated and stored. Packed away, the original had been unseen until Stuart Collection offered the mural a permanent home at UC San Diego, an offer that Alexis Smith happily accepted. The sheer size of the work proved a challenge to finding a suitable site, but after patient searching a home was found in the auditorium at the University’s new North Torey Pines Living and Learning Center, slated to be opened in 2021.

Anthony Graham, Associate Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) and an authority on Alexis Smith’s work, joins Stuart Collection’s Mary Beebe and Mathieu Gregoire to explore Smith’s collaborations with the Collection in the larger context of her career. The trio note that both Snake Path and Same Old Paradise feature “the Snake of Knowledge,” alluding to the Garden of Eden and the loss of innocence that accompanies life experience. Other prominent themes include the impact of Hollywood on American culture, California’s status as a mythic state of mind, the ideological underpinnings of mass culture, and Smith’s ironic, occasionally incongruent usage of stereotypes from recent American history (e.g., Marilyn Monroe) in her work. Graham also discusses the upcoming exhibition he’s putting together for MCASD, a comprehensive look at the fifty-year span of Alexis Smith’s creative life.

Watch Alexis Smith: Snake Path & Same Old Paradise.

AI and the Brain

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is no longer the domain of science fiction. It has become a major part of our daily lives. Ever ask Alexa to play you a song? Booked a trip online? Received customer service through chat? AI powers those interactions and is now being integrated into biological challenges.

Terry Sejnowski, Professor and Laboratory Head at the Salk Institute, uses computer modeling techniques to better understand how brain cells process, sort and store information. This line of study is creating a link between the biology of the brain and AI. As this line of inquiry evolves, questions about privacy, bias and more arise. Sejnowski explores the current reach of AI, implications for the future, and how researchers are answering the ethical dilemmas associated with AI.

Watch The Deep Learning Revolution.

CARTA: The Impact of Infectious Disease on Humans and Our Origins

As humanity experiences an epic upheaval with the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, we are painfully admonished of how throughout existence, infectious diseases have had profound influences on the evolution of their host populations.

In the case of humans, the host species has also shaped pathogen dynamics and virulence via a multitude of factors. Some ancient factors range from changes in social organization, group size, and exploitation of varied habitats and their animals and plant resources. More recently, developments including settlement, agriculture, technology, rapid long-distance travel, medicine and global economic integration continue to shape epidemics and the human host populations.

We are witnessing the results of all these factors playing out before us as we struggle with this pandemic.

Browse more programs in CARTA Presents: The Impact of Infectious Disease on Humans and our Origins.