Ballet and the Neuroethics Grand Challenge at Georgia Tech Arts

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Step the Brain Along a Path design by Sergio Mora Diaz

On September 9, 2022, witness the world premiere of a ballet made in creative collaboration between a renowned choreographer, esteemed research scientists, and celebrated artists when Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre performs Step the Brain Along a Path at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts.

An innovative exploration of technological interventions into the human brain.

In what Georgia Tech Arts and Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre (TMBT) have dubbed the “Neuroethics Grand Challenge,” the two companies along with acclaimed choreographer Troy Schumacher and internationally revered new media artist Sergio Mora-Diaz explore neuroscience and the ethics of intervention with AI and other technologies.

Our brain is the path to human experience. Interacting with the adaptive brain has the potential to challenge our self-understanding, arguably more than any other scientific discipline. John Welker, TMBT’s artistic director, says “In any collaboration, there are surprises that are part of my joy for discovery, but this particular process has made me so much more aware and appreciative of the intimate connection between our minds' intention and how that is carried out through the movement of our bodies.”

The artists’ collaborative partnership extends to a team of researchers led by Christopher Rozell, professor in the School of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Karen Rommelfanger, president and founder of the Institute of Neuroethics Think and Do Tank. Other faculty who engaged with the artists by discussing their research include: Chethan Pandarinath, assistant professor, Annabelle Singer, assistant professor, Garrett Stanley, professor, and Lena Ting, professor, in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University; and Doby Rahnev, associate professor in the School of Psychology at Georgia Tech.

Rozell, who has been with the project since its inception, states:

“Science and technology research is pushing us to the boundaries of what we know about the human brain, and that forces us to wrestle with ideas that are insufficiently described by our current language. The arts can help us process this emerging understanding in new ways that go beyond language and can do it by creating something beautiful that we can celebrate as a uniquely human experience. I couldn’t be prouder of the way that this project has fulfilled the potential of integrating science and the arts.”

Creativity plays an important role at Georgia Tech

The premiere of Step the Brain Along a Path comes as the final phase of a three-year project that included two work-in-progress showings in 2021 presented by Georgia Tech Arts. Adding to the opportunities for outreach and engagement will be a video installation in the Ferst Center lobby displayed in tandem with the performances of the ballet, offering insight into neuroscience at Georgia Tech. For this installation Georgia Tech Arts connected Atlanta-based creative artist Kimberly Binns with a Georgia Tech team led by Rozell with graduate student lead Abby Paulson, BMED, Kyle Johnsen, BMED, and GT alumnus Timothy Min, M.S. Music Technology 2022.

“We had no idea what would happen when we brought together these scientists and artists,” says Aaron Shackelford, the director of Georgia Tech Arts. “What we did know was innovation happens in these creative spaces where arts intersect with research. Throughout this three-year journey we have had the opportunity to see artists, faculty, and graduate students learn from each other and inspire each other, and been able to invite our campus and community to join in this process. The arts provide these unique experiences, these encounters that nurture new ideas and new ways to understand cutting edge research and the human condition. This is why the arts play such a critical role at Georgia Tech, and why this project embodies the possibilities for arts and research across our campus.”

Step the Brain Along a Path was commissioned in part with support from the Charles Loridans Foundation.

 

  • 8:00 p.m., Friday, September 9, 2022
  • 3:00 p.m., Sunday, September 11, 2022
  • Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts - 349 Ferst Dr NW, Atlanta, GA, 30332
  • Ticket Price: $5 GT students, $10.00 public; general admission
  • Direct Purchase Link: artsgatech.universitytickets.com
  • Box Office Contact Information: 404.894.9600, tickets@arts.gatech.edu 

 

Design image (c) Sergio Mora Diaz

Dancer photo Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre (c) Felipe Barral

Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre: STEP THE BRAIN ALONG A PATH
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Elizabeth Geiger, Communications Officer, SEWB