Curiosity, Passion, Purpose
The first time I had my dreams of the future crushed, it was at the hands of Philip Glass. I first saw Koyaanisqatsi when I was 17 years old. It’s an early 80s experimental film–a nearly wordless hour and a half of timelapse clouds, forests, factories, and cities all set to Glass’ tauntingly familiar and suitably epic score. The film lulled me into a greater sense of self; I felt connected to all humanity while sprawled awkwardly on my parent’s sofa.
It was the end of the film that broke me. After traversing what feels like millions of years of human evolution, the last shot shows a rocket launch. The rocket speeds upward for about half a minute before silently exploding. The camera hangs on a piece of flaming debris as it plummets earthward. The film that shows the endless human endeavour of progress, manufacturing, and scientific development gives a harrowing punctuation of human failure. The bright “future of progress”, the film seems to say, is a brutal lie.
As we move into 2016, the struggle of scientific revolution feels closer than ever. The same month we successfully landed an orbital rocket (and then failed to), we also saw record temperatures across the country. We’re making breakthroughs in genetic engineering, quantum computing, and machine learning, while continually faced with racial violence, political punditry, and international terrorism.
Though Philip Glass worked to break my dreams of the future the first time, nowadays it feels like a weekly occurrence.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’m reminded of perhaps his most optimistic quote: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Might we say the same thing about science? Can the arc of human endeavor and progress truly bend toward justice, or are we betting our future on a pointless push into the unknown?
These kinds of questions so often feel out of our reach–that technology and science are forces out of our control. When I read the news, the constant stream of catastrophes and breakthroughs feel like fate. That the bending “arc” of the future simply has a destiny of its own.
But that’s not the truth. There is no god “Tekhnologia,” there is no great deity “Scientia.” There are just humans. There are humans working in labs, humans programming computers, and humans building machinery. Is it us that drives our development–we choose what to create and what to destroy. Just as with our art, our science is a means of self-expression.
It is with these questions of technology and justice, of progress and fear swimming in our heads that we are beginning Catalyst. Catalyst is a group of artists and scientists that seek the human element. We do not worship at the altar of starry-eyed scientific transcendence. Rather, we ask questions and we tell stories. Research is our material. Creation is our means of inquiry. Art is our medium of expression.
Each question we choose to ask is an expression of ourselves. Behind each academic paper, conference presentation, and detailed chart is a human story. What does rocket science reveal about human emotion? What does genetic engineering teach us about intimacy? How do smartphones become our best friends? What does our development say about us?
The founding of this company is the asking of a question. How can artists and scientists create together? Each process we undertake will be an experiment, each idea a hypothesis, each performance a result.
We hope you’ll come explore with us.
–Phil Weaver-Stoesz | Creative Director