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Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Arts and the A-bomb

– The Atomic Age will undergo artistic scrutiny and rethinking through an upcoming series of events coordinated by the University of California, Berkeley's Consortium for the Arts.

The programs come some 60 years after detonation of the first atomic bomb under the guidance of the late UC Berkeley Physics Professor J. Robert Oppenheimer and after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They also wrap around the run of a major Bay Area arts event - "Doctor Atomic," the San Francisco Opera's collaboration with Peter Sellars and John Adams that recreates the hours before the atomic bomb's first explosion in the New Mexico desert.

Anthony J. Cascardi, director of the consortium and UC Berkeley's interim dean of arts and humanities, said the idea of the series is to contribute UC Berkeley's artistic and intellectual artistic resources to a multi-faceted set of reflections on the scientific, social, historical and cultural changes wrought for the world by atomic weapons.

The UC Berkeley events begin in late September and will include:

  • "The College Presents: Science and the Soul: J. Robert Oppenheimer and 'Doctor Atomic'," a public conversation at UC Berkeley at 8 p.m., Monday, Sept. 26, between Peter Sellars and John Adams about the making and meaning of their opera.

    They will be joined by UC Berkeley physics professor Marvin Cohen and Mark Richards, dean of physical sciences at UC Berkeley. The discussion will explore Oppenheimer's role in the creation of the atomic bomb and the historical, scientific and musical background of "Doctor Atomic."

    The free campus program, presented by UC Berkeley's College of Letters & Science and Cal Performances at Wheeler Hall Auditorium, will feature an exclusive musical preview of the opera.

    Tickets will be available at the Cal Performances ticket office at Zellerbach Hall from Sept. 20-25 and at the Wheeler lobby box office the night of the event. For more information about the opera, see LS.berkeley.edu/CollegePresents, www.doctor-atomic.com or www.sfopera.com.

  • "On Nuclear Time," a 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29 lecture by art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson of the Rhode Island School of Design, exploring plans for a marker over a New Mexico nuclear waste dump to warn future generations about the effects of radioactivity. Without using words, the monument is supposed to warn people thousands of years in the future of the site's radioactive risks. The lecture, organized by UC Berkeley's Department of History of Art, will take place in Room 160 of Kroeber Hall, near the intersection of Bancroft Way and College Avenue.

  • "A Composer's Colloquium," a presentation by UC Berkeley's Music Department with composer Adams about the making of "Doctor Atomic." It will take place from 3-4:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 30, in the Elkus Room, 125 Morrison Hall.

  • "Doctor Atomic Goes Nuclear," a series in October at the Pacific Film Archive that will feature films depicting the aftermath of nuclear war, the anxiety of the Atomic Age and the unsettling tradeoffs in society's promotion of science and technology. Sellars and Jon Else, a UC Berkeley journalism professor and acclaimed documentary filmmaker ("The Day After Trinity: J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb"), will be among the special guests providing commentary on the series' films. Visit the PFA website calendar for schedule updates and admission prices: http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/pfa_programs/index.html.

  • "100 SUNS," an installation by Michael Light from Oct. 3-8, adjacent to Memorial Glade, in front of Doe Library. The Center for Photography at the Graduate School of Journalism will present the artwork based on photographer and bookmaker Light's 2003 book of the same name. The series of previously classified American nuclear detonation photographs made by the military during the era of United States atmospheric atomic testing reflect on the role of the University of California in the nuclear arms race and the Cold War.

  • "Controlling Nuclear Weapons: From Oppenheimer to the Present: Authors in Conversation," at noon, Wednesday, Oct. 5, in North Gate Hall's Bayley Library. Participants will include Martin Sherwin, professor at Tufts University and co-author of the recent biography, "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer;" and Jonathan Schell, senior fellow at the Institute For the Study of Globalization at Yale University and author of "The Fate of the Earth, The Unconquerable World" and other works on the history of nuclear weapons.

  • "The Aesthetics of the Bomb and the Aesthetics of 'Doctor Atomic,'" a colloquium and roundtable discussion by UC Berkeley's Rhetoric Department at 4 p.m., Monday, Oct. 10, about the aesthetics of nuclear weapons and the practices and politics surrounding them as seen in "Doctor Atomic," the film "Crossroads," the work of photographer Richard Misrach, and what author David E. Nye calls the "nuclear sublime." This event will take place in 370 Dwinelle Hall.

  • "Atomic Poetry," a reading by 30 poets of new work created for this 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct.15 program at the Berkeley Art Museum. Participants in the event, organized by UC Berkeley's English Department, will include poets Robert Hass and Lyn Hejinian of the UC Berkeley faculty, along with Brenda Hillman, Bill Berkson and Leslie Scalapino, among others.