Creating Accessible & Immersive Astrophysics Storytelling

Course Description

Students in this course will be working with multidisciplinary artist Janani Balasubramanian (‘12) and Assistant Professor of Physics at Colorado College Dr. Natalie Gosnell on the creative development of The Gift, an immersive new media performance experience that merges the private pleasures of reading and listening with shared moments of generosity to narrate the poetic process of mass transfer in binary star systems—to explore companionship, care, life, death, renewal, loss, and what we can learn by observing the stars. More on The Gift here.

Over the course of this intensive, students will engage with several aspects of project development, from scripting and voiceover/music recording to software design (for a show control app) and tour preparation. We are particularly seeking students across theater and performance studies, computer science, physics/astrophysics, symbolic systems, STS, music, education, product design, and visual arts, though are open to any students with relevant multidisciplinary interests. 

Working in residence at both The Public Theater and The American Museum of Natural History, and in partnership with the celebrated augmented reality studio Superbright, Janani has prototyped this project and will move into production in 2020. 


Meet the Instructor(s)

Matthew Smith

Professor of German Studies and of Theater and Performance Studies

Matthew Wilson Smith's interests include modern theatre; modernism and media; and relations between technology, science, and the arts. His book The Nervous Stage: 19th-century Neuroscience and the Birth of Modern Theatre (Oxford, 2017) explores historical intersections between the performing arts and the neurological sciences and traces the construction of a “neural subject” over the course of the nineteenth century. His previous book, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (Routledge, 2007), presents a history and theory of modern artistic synthesis, placing such diverse figures as Wagner, Moholy-Nagy, Brecht, Riefenstahl, Disney, Warhol, and contemporary cyber-artists within a genealogy of totalizing 

performance. He is the editor of Georg Büchner: The Major Works, which appeared as a Norton Critical Edition in 2011, and the co-editor of Modernism and Opera, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2016. He previously held professorships at Cornell University and Boston University as well as visiting positions at Columbia University and Johannes Gutenberg-Universität (Mainz). 


Janani Balasubramanian

Janani Balasubramanian is an artist and creative researcher. Balasubramanian frequently works in deep collaboration with astrophysicists to shift how we understand inner and outer space,and uses artmaking as an occasion to pursue ambitious research inquiries. Their practice centers experimentation with form and technology, wide accessibility, and play, and includes works of new media (augmented/virtual reality), film, immersive theatre, and literary fiction. Balasubramanian's work has been presented at more than 160 stages across North America and Europe, including The Public Theater, MOMA, Abrons Arts Center, Andy Warhol Museum, Red Bull Arts, Ace Hotel, Brooklyn Museum, Asian American Writer's Workshop, High Line, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Residency support for this work has included the National Endowment for the Arts, Public Theater Devised Theater Working Group, Abrons Arts Center, and Mount Tremper Arts. Balasubramanian was a 2019 Innovator-in-Residence at Colorado College, 2019 Brooklyn College/Tow Foundation artist resident, 2018 artist-in-residence at the University of Colorado, and a 2018-2019 Van Lier Fellow at the Public Theater.