MacArthur x BGC: What is Research?
With biomedical researcher Elodie Ghedin, designer Mimi Lien, and photographer and filmmaker An-My Lê, moderated by Bard Graduate Center dean, Peter Miller.

Research may well be the key word in our contemporary knowledge culture, with global investment in research across all industries estimated at $1 trillion, and its importance acknowledged by governments, industry, and academia around the world. Yet, the idea of research, the practice of research, and the social life of research is not a subject of reflection. Of the 164 million items in the catalogue of the Library of Congress, only 43 fall into the category “Research—History.” To begin the task of understanding research, Bard Graduate Center has gathered a group of artists, scientists, and humanists—all MacArthur “Genius” Award winners—for three evenings of discussion moderated by Dean Peter Miller. These conversations launch a project on research that will culminate in an exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in fall 2023. Other conversations in this series include:


Tuesday, November 5, 6–8 pm
Artist Tom Joyce, physicist Hideo Mabuchi, and neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg

Tuesday, November 19, 6–8 pm
Poet Campbell McGrath and choreographer Elizabeth Streb

There is no charge to attend the conversations, but space is limited, so please reserve your tickets in advance.

Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation


Meet the MacArthur Fellows
Elodie Ghedin is a biomedical researcher who is harnessing the power of genomic sequencing techniques to generate critical insights about human pathogens. Although the technology for obtaining nucleotide sequence data continues to accelerate, the labor-intensive task of analyzing and annotating the resulting data—for example, identifying genes, their functions, and their expression; determining the arrangement of genes within the genome; performing phylogenetic and functional comparisons with other known species—often lags behind. Ghedin has established herself as a leader of international projects that coordinate the efforts of scores of scientists to decode the function of some of the most virulent human pathogens. A major focus of her work has been parasites that cause diseases endemic to tropical climates, such as leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, elephantiasis, and river blindness. Through her direct research and mobilization of global scientific collaborations, Ghedin’s work illuminates the similarities and differences in the molecular physiology of the various parasites, with important implications for targets for drug development. In addition, Ghedin and her colleagues are applying similar approaches to understanding viruses that infect humans. RNA viruses such as HIV and influenzae mutate particularly rapidly, making vaccine development difficult. In a high-resolution study of complete genome sequences of influenza A from thousands of isolates collected in the New York area, Ghedin and colleagues showed that the virus evolves with surprising rapidity even in a circumscribed geographic region. Through her contributions to parasitology and virology, Ghedin demonstrates that molecular genetics is not only essential for exploring the basic biology of pathogens but also represents a powerful tool in the hands of scientists working in coordination to improve public health across the globe.

Mimi Lien
designs sets/environments for theater, dance, and opera. Arriving at set design from a background in architecture, her work often focuses on the interaction between audience/environment and object/performer. She hails from New Haven, CT, and is based in Brooklyn, New York. Lien was named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow and is the first set designer ever to achieve this distinction. Selected work includes Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 (Broadway, Lortel Award, 2013 Hewes Design Award), John (Signature Theatre, 2016 Hewes Design Award), Appropriate (Mark Taper Forum, LA Drama Critics Circle Award), Preludes, The Oldest Boy (Lincoln Center), An Octoroon (Soho Rep/TFANA, Drama Desk and Lortel nominations), Black Mountain Songs (BAM Next Wave). Her stage designs have been exhibited in the Prague Quadrennial in 2011 and 2015, and her sculptures were featured in the exhibition, LANDSCAPES OF QUARANTINE, at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Lien’s designs for theater, dance, and opera have been seen around the United States at such venues as Lincoln Center Theater, Signature Theatre, Playwrights’ Horizons, the Public Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Joyce Theater, Goodman Theatre, Soho Rep, and internationally at Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre (Russia), Intradans (Netherlands), National Theatre (Taiwan), and others. Lien received a BA in architecture from Yale University (1997) and an MFA in stage design from New York University (2003). She is a company member of Pig Iron Theatre Company and co-founder of the performance space JACK.

An-My Lê was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1960. Lê fled Vietnam with her family as a teenager in 1975, the final year of the war, eventually settling in the United States as a political refugee. Lê received BAS and MS degrees in biology from Stanford University (1981, 1985) and an MFA from Yale University (1993). Her photographs and films examine the impact, consequences, and representation of war. Whether in color or black-and-white, her pictures frame a tension between the natural landscape and its violent transformation into battlefields. Projects include Viêt Nam (1994–98), in which Lê’s memories of a war-torn countryside are reconciled with the contemporary landscape; Small Wars (1999–2002), in which Lê photographed and participated in Vietnam War reenactments in South Carolina; and 29 Palms (2003–04), in which US Marines preparing for deployment play-act scenarios in a virtual Middle East in the California desert. Suspended between the formal traditions of documentary and staged photography, Lê’s work explores the disjunction between wars as historical events and the ubiquitous representation of war in contemporary entertainment, politics, and collective consciousness.

She has received many awards, including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1997) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (1996). She has had major exhibitions at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006); Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2006); International Center of Photography Triennial (2006); MoMA PS1, Long Island City (2002); and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1997). Lê lives and works in New York.