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A Multidisciplinary Perspective on a Changing Earth

Image courtesy of Dustin Yellin. Rendering by Alan Lucey. 2022

Pioneer Works: Perspectives on a Changing Earth

Lecture Environmental Council

This panel brings together three individuals - an artist, an environmentalist, and a physicist - for a discussion on the global impact of human-made climate change, and the possibility of building a sustainable and equitable future through culture, activism, and education. Dustin Yellin is an artist who balances a sculptural practice visualizing the catastrophic impact of the anthropocene, with a social practice to build community through accessible, transdisciplinary education and engagement, as a catalyst to provoke societal change. David de Rothschild is an ecologist and activist whose global exploration and adventuring have brought widespread attention and innovative solutions to urgent environmental issues. Theoretical astrophysicist Janna Levin considers life and environments on exoplanets and how the climate crisis impacts not only our planet, but the universe around it. Together with moderator Adrianne Ramsey, an arts curator and writer, the panel will discuss why climate change is the most pressing issue of our time, how education and innovation can unlock solutions to political inertia, and how the actions we take today can forestall the direct impact of this looming crisis.

Dustin Yellin tells stories that weave together the diverse forces of nature and technology. Through his multidisciplinary body of work, which includes sculpture, collage, animation, pedagogy, and institution building, Yellin tunnels across traditionally siloed fields to crystallize the idea that everything is interconnected. The artist balances descriptive poetry with a prescriptive social practice so as to span new ways of seeing and being, and build a bridge to a more holistic world. Yellin lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the founder and director of Pioneer Works. His artwork has been exhibited at Brooklyn Museum, Amorepacific Museum, Museo Del Palacio de Bellas Artes, SCAD Museum of Art, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, amongst many others.

As an explorer, who has traversed some of the world’s toughest environments, David de Rothschild has been harnessing his curious spirit to help give Nature a voice and make the world a more sustainable place for the last two decades. In 2006, he founded the Voice for Nature Foundation, an organization that uses exploration, adventure and storytelling to give ‘Nature a voice.’ David is one of the leaders of a new generation of change-makers focused on re-igniting collective hope in the future of the planet. Not only helping unearth innovative solutions to tackle our most pressing problems, David uses innovative storytelling to inspire a movement around how we can all live more sustainably. Despite having witnessed first hand the impact of climate change and human industry on some of the planet’s most fragile ecosystems, David remains boldly confident that if we can all work together and act now, then there is still a chance we can turn things around and continue to live on ‘spaceship earth’.

David has taken his call to action to millions of individuals across all demographics - from children in classrooms to world leaders, NGOs to NASA, industries to non profits, Oprah Winfrey to Nickelodeon. He has hosted conferences, delivered keynotes, published books, produced a Sundance Channel TV series, a National Geographic documentary and featured in a recent CNN series, Modern Explorers.

Janna Levin is the Claire Tow Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. She is also the Director of Sciences at Pioneer Works and the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Pioneer Works Broadcast. A Guggenheim Fellow, Janna has contributed to an understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions, and gravitational waves in the shape of spacetime. She is the presenter of the NOVA feature Black Hole Apocalypse, aired on PBS—the first female presenter for NOVA in 35 years. Her previous books include How the Universe Got Its Spots, Black Hole Blues, and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, which won the PEN/Bingham Prize among other awards. Her latest book is Black Hole Survival Guide.

Adrianne Ramsey is an independent curator, writer, and arts editor. She has organized exhibitions for Root Division, Berkeley Art Center, and USC Roski Galleries, and is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of GIRLS Magazine, an online publication that interviews femme-identifying contemporary artists, art professionals, curators, and writers about art, politics, and their individual practices. Her writing on contemporary art and culture has appeared in several publications and exhibition catalogues. She is also Director of Communications of Art Into Acres, a non-profit environmental, art, and land conservation initiative, and is an MA Candidate in Curatorial Practices at the University of Southern California.

MOCA’s environmental programming series highlights the museum’s work around climate, conservation, and environmental justice. Guided by the work of the MOCA Environmental Council, the first sustainability council at a major arts museum in the United States, this series presents artists, activists, and scholars committed to critical ecological issues in Los Angeles and globally. 

The 2022 series is made possible by Nora McNeely Hurley and Manitou Fund.