Art and Science

I told Deb that “we were in for a weird day.”

She had agreed to join me at a performance art event followed by a “sensorial experience.”

Artist Oliver Herring was invited to the college campus where I work to put on his performance art event called “Areas for Action.” He spent five days on campus, creating a different art event each day. He invites the public to participate in these events by being models and helping to create scenes, which he then photographs and films.

I chose to participate in the final event, which was a Foil Ball. One volunteer with a lot of stamina sat in a chair for hours as people came in and added foil creations to her and around her.










When we arrived, a group of teenagers who had wandered in were hard at work creating the state of Idaho out of foil because that was where they were visiting from. A young girl was sitting on the ground in a foil boat that her mother was creating around her. The mother and her other child, an infant, hopped in at some point and a scene was built around them too.

Deb and I got to work, adding pieces to the main volunteer sitting in the chair. We became models ourselves when my colleague walked over with a roll of foil in hand and started creating a scene around us. He gave me what looked like a shepherd’s hook, so I declared myself a shepherdess. Deb became a soldier.










It was a fun and creative few hours. As we left, they were setting up for a closing reception soiree. Regretfully, we had to head across the river for an appointment at Le Laboratoire Cambridge. We were trying the Lab’s “sensorial experience.”








Upon arrival, a docent led us through the current exhibit, which consisted mainly of videos highlighting a few bodies of work by a group of British contemporary artists known as Random International. I was most impressed by its Rain Room, which is an installation of pouring rain that one can walk through without getting wet, due to sensors and other scientific stuff.








We were then directed to a room where we would have our sensorial experience. The experience is the brainchild of Harvard professor David Edward, who enjoys creating culinary experiments. First, we inhaled some scents through a glass tube. The scents started out as liquids that were then put through a special diffuser that changed them to inhalable clouds. (!)

I realized that I do not have a great sense of smell during the next experience, the oPhone. An iPad was connected to a little machine that pushed out different scents, which you chose on the iPad. Everything smelled the same to me. The idea is, that in the future, you could send a photo of a field of flowers to a friend on your phone, and the friend could “smell” the flowers at the same time. Whaaaaa…

Before Deb and I moved on to the next station, we were handed a lethal cocktail, a lime gimlet. We were told that the lime had been centrifuged. I don’t know if that is the reason behind it tasting a lot stronger than a regular gimlet or if we are just lightweights. But we were feeling pretty good pretty quickly.

Next, we inhaled some different powders that were supposed to give us bursts of chocolate, nutrition, or energy. I tried the chocolate, which was pretty good. But if given the choice, I would still welcome the extra calories of a real chocolate bar…

The grand finale, and my favorite part, was a Wikicells tasting. Wikicells are small balls of ice cream in edible packaging. All of the ice cream balls were composed of the same base of coconut milk, but they were encased with different flavors of “packaging,” which had the consistency of hard gel. If I recall correctly, we tried blueberry, chocolate, and caramel. I like this idea of edible packaging for environmental reasons.

Lethal gimlet and container that held the Wikicells
Lethal gimlet and container that held the Wikicells









It was an inspiring day that made me feel lucky to live in a place where I’m surrounded by seemingly limitless creativity and innovation.

Up next, keeping with the weirdness theme: I report on my first past-life regression session…


I’ll be starting off the New Year with a bang. Multiple bangs, actually.

…Bangs as in fringe across my forehead.

Carried away in the spirit of wanting to start off the New Year with a change, I told my hair stylist to give me bangs yesterday.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, and it really isn’t. But I haven’t had bangs in at least 25 years. And that’s not exaggeration. I haven’t had bangs since elementary or junior high school!

I’m having trouble recognizing myself in the mirror. And the bangs seem HEAVY on my forehead. I feel as if I have a small furry animal draped across my forehead 24/7.

Anyway, resolutions.

‘Tis the season for resolutions. My friend Anya told me that she read that many resolutions fail because they are not specific enough. If you resolve to work out more, or be nicer to people, you really can’t measure your progress. You need to resolve to work out x times a week, or say something nice to someone every day. You should also focus on just a few resolutions vs. a long list.

I think I am going to resolve to go to the gym three times a week, as often as humanly possible. And I want to set aside two hours per week to work on crafts. I enjoy making jewelry, cards, and soap. But I never leave myself the time to “play.”

This will entail a big shift in my thinking, as I tend to book myself up with social events and volunteering. It’s about time that I schedule in some “me time.”

Are you making resolutions this year?


Cyndi and Chris

One of the reasons why I live in a city is so I can do things like see Cyndi Lauper in concert one night and Chris Thile the next.

Cyndi is on a 30th anniversary tour for her debut solo album, She’s So Unusual. I don’t remember all of the songs on that album, but I knew the concert would be awesome regardless.

The night got off to a fun start with me and the girls meeting for a drink at a bar across the street from the venue. We “recruited” (as Deb so aptly put it) the guy sitting next to us to join us for the concert. He was able to buy a ticket in the row behind us, since we had bought the cheapest seats available in the balcony. Maybe he brought us good luck: we were thrilled when we arrived at the theater and were moved up a number of rows because the balcony wasn’t sold out.

Cyndi rocked, as I expected she would. She was clad in black leather and wore a wig of long, wavy cherry red. The woman is 60 but she danced around as if she were still 30. The night was one big ’80s dance party with lots of synthesizer.

Cyndi was gracious and told long, rambling stories about some of the songs. One of the reasons I attend concerts is to hear the musicians tell long, rambling stories. It’s great to learn the stories behind the lyrics. Sometimes the most mundane story translates to the most profound lyric.

Cyndi ended the encore with “True Colors.” My friends, and our new friend, put our arms around each other and swayed back and forth while belting the lyrics. Whenever I hear this song, I picture my 10-year-old self dancing a ballet number in a pastel purple bodysuit with a flowing pink skirt. And I marvel at how timeless some music can be. Thirty years have passed, but the music is just as moving and poignant.


Twenty-fours after rocking with Cyndi, I found myself in Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, waiting for mandolinist Chris Thile to take the stage. This was the third time I’ve seen him perform. I first fell under his spell at a Goat Rodeo Sessions concert in January 2012. I saw him about a year later with his band, The Punch Brothers.

He is touring solo now to promote a new record of his, a Bach sonata and partita on mandolin. I was pleasantly surprised by how close my seat was to the stage. I loveĀ  when that happens. I was sandwiched between a woman in her 70s with a thick accent and a college student wearing a T-shirt and shorts.

Chris walked on stage amidst thunderous applause. Without a word, he started playing the first movement of the sonata. After he finished, he explained that he would be playing some Bach, and then some “stuff” in between. The stuff was sometimes fun and sometimes hauntingly beautiful.

In the middle of the show, he played a Bach movement for possibly 30 minutes straight. It started to feel surreal, as I asked myself, is he still really playing??

Talk about music that is timeless. Three hundred years later and the music is still stunning. After his Bach marathon, Chris launched into a song he wrote, the chorus of which was “If you’re going to leave me, set me up with one of your friends.” Who can pull that off?

Chris Thile can.

To sum it up, he blew the mind of everyone there. The woman to my left looked awestruck every time I caught her in my peripheral vision. I giggled to myself as the kid next to me fist pumped when Chris starting playing his “stuff.” I think he was even singing along at times.

The man can tear it up on the mandolin. Plus he has an amazing voice with quite a range. And he can charm the pants off any audience. Add him to my list of musicians whom I would consider following around the country if I were independently wealthy and didn’t have to hold down a job. I think I’ve missed my calling as a music groupie…