MacArthur x BGC: What is Research?
With Tom Joyce, Hideo Mabuchi, and Sheila Nirenberg, moderated by BGC dean, Peter Miller

Research may well be the key word in our contemporary knowledge culture with global spending exceeding an estimated $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. 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, October 3, 6–8 pm
Biomedical researcher Elodie Ghedin, designer Mimi Lien, and photographer and filmmaker An-My Lê

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
Formally trained as a blacksmith, artist Tom Joyce is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost practitioners in the field for his early contributions to the art and science of forging iron. Apprenticing as a teenager in the early 1970s, and now working from studios in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Brussels, Belgium, on forged sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos, and mixed media installations, Joyce continues to examine the environmental, political, and historical implications of using iron in his work. Incorporating industrially forged remnants and byproducts of large-scale manufacturing, Joyce’s sculptures reference this material’s former life as an indispensable component used by multinational corporations, governmental agencies, and military forces around the world.

Joyce was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2003; and later that year an Aileen Osborn-Webb Award from the American Craft Council’s College of Fellows. He was inducted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art in 2004; and in 2006, received the Distinguished Artist of the Year Award from Rotary International’s Foundation for the Arts. He was honored with a Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2009; was a recipient of a United States Artists Windgate Fellowship in 2011; and in 2014, was given an Honorary Doctorate from Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Joyce is a 2002 and 2013 alumni of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Art/Industry Residency program, and in 2008 he was a lithography resident artist at Tamarind Institute.

Exhibiting internationally since 1981, Joyce’s work has been shown at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; Graf-Zeppelin Haus, Friedrichshafen, Germany; Exposicion Centro, Guadalajara, Mexico; Lounais-Suomen Käsi-ja Taideteollisuusoppilaitos, Mynämäki, Finland; Museum of Applied Arts, Moscow, Russia; and Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France. His work is in many permanent public collections, including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Detroit Institute of Art; New Mexico Museum of Art; Luce Foundation Center for American Art; Mint Museum of Art; National Metal Museum; Boston Museum of Fine Art; Tucson Museum of Art; and Yale University Art Gallery.

Hideo Mabuchi is a physicist who uses optical methods to extend our understanding of quantum behavior. Mabuchi’s studies provide an experimental vehicle for exploring how thermodynamic processes mask quantum behavior, and how their interaction might be harnessed for important practical uses. Using optical trapping protocols, he investigates the effects of external perturbations on quantum behavior. Mabuchi specifically focuses on examining the long-term dynamic evolution of quantum systems. This line of research is establishing the groundwork for future advances in both fundamental physics and practical applications. In addition, physics at the intersection of the quantum and thermodynamic regimes may play a vital role in determining the conformation of large biomolecules (such as enzymes) whose function depends on correct three-dimensional structure.

Mabuchi received his AB in physics from Princeton University (1992) and PhD in physics from California Institute of Technology (1998). He spent nine years as a faculty member at Caltech with appointments in physics and in control and dynamical systems, then moved to Stanford University as professor of applied physics in 2007. He has been serving as chair of the applied physics department since September 2010. Selected honors include an A.P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the inaugural Mohammed Dahleh Distinguished Lectureship awarded by University of California, Santa Barbara.

Sheila Nirenberg is a neuroscientist exploring fundamental questions about how the brain encodes visual information and developing an alternative approach to restoring sight after photoreceptor cell degeneration. In the visual sensory system in mammals, the photoreceptor cells in the retina take in information from the outside world, such as an image or visual pattern. This information is then passed through the retinal circuitry to the ganglion cells, which transform it into a neural code that the brain can understand. In the case of diseases such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, which affect approximately 20–25 million people worldwide, vision is lost when deteriorating photoreceptor cells no longer take in visual signals.