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Science & Art Cabaret to feature lively, insightful conversation on ‘death’

For its final event of the season, Buffalo’s popular Science & Art Cabaret will invite five creative minds to discuss the theme of “Death,” a subject familiar to all, feared by some and a source of curiosity to many.

Presenters range from the author of a book on high-altitude mountaineering to an artist who creates exquisite pen-and-ink drawings of cadavers. A historian will discuss the quixotic trend of Victorian-era death photography.

The cabaret will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 28 in The Ninth Ward at Babeville, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo. Admission is free. There will be a cash bar.

The line-up includes:

  • Elizabeth Mazzolini, UB associate professor of English and author of the book “The Everest Effect: Nature, Culture, Ideology.” She will discuss high-altitude mountaineering in a talk titled, “Climbing with Death.”
  • Joan Linder, chair of UB’s Department of Art, who addresses death in her work through drawings of the Love Canal disaster and of corpses in the UB anatomy lab. She will deliver a talk titled “Many Deaths: Corpses, Burial Mounds and Archives.”
  • Erik Seeman, UB professor of history, whose research interests include death. He will discuss Victorian-era death photography in a talk titled “The Corpse in the Parlor.”
  • Angie Conte, electronic musician, who once told the Qween City webzine, “My sound is kind of what you’d expect to hear at a funeral in outer-space: dreamy and pretty, yet sad and haunting.” She will address alternative and home funerals in a presentation titled “The American Way of Death.”
  • Dave Persons, a former pastor. He will deliver a talk titled “Looking Forward to Death.”

The Science & Art Cabaret is presented by Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, the Buffalo Museum of Science, the Technē Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies at UB, and the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

The event series acts as an ongoing conversation about endless topics across all disciplines, typically bringing together artists and scientists to discuss how their work illuminates a common theme. The series’ underlying premise is that intellectual pursuits that appear distinct actually cross paths far more often than presumed and share spheres of interest and meaning.

Since the fall of 2009, the Science & Art Cabaret has tackled a wide panoply of themes — nanotechnology, the brain, sound, hysteresis, modularity, failure, relativity, improvisation, color, skepticism, even James Joyce — but it has never dealt with that most final of final themes.

“It underscores the bottomless well of knowledge we have yet to plumb with this event that, after a couple dozen presentations, we are finally getting around to ‘Death,’” says cabaret co-organizer John Massier, visual arts curator for Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center. “We felt it was an appropriate way to conclude the season, and it was fascinating — as it always is with the cabaret — what a wide range of participants and perspectives came together under this theme. That thematic variety is the fuel that keeps our cabaret engine running smoothly, so we are always buoyed at the boundless questions that arise in our ongoing pursuit of knowledge.”

Co-organizer Will Kinney, UB professor of physics, adds: “Endlessly fascinating, death is both the most familiar and most distant of human obsessions. As a cosmologist, I concern myself with beginnings and endings — the beginning of time, and the end of it, when all the stars have burned out and the universe settles into infinite quiet.

The Science & Art Cabaret is about making connections, and death is the ultimate connection linking us all.

“Our human lives mirror this in microcosm, and death looms over every human endeavor: scientific, artistic, philosophical. The Science & Art Cabaret is about making connections, and death is the ultimate connection linking us all. Our discussion promises to be lively, informative, and moving.”

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