“Earth Chance” a performance by Kythe Heller and Meghan McNealy

What kinds of spiritual, political and environmental worlds can art-making and literary practice reveal and create? What kinds of knowledges and actions do these forms distinctly make possible? And how can we develop those knowledges and actions collectively in our art-making, writing, scholarship, and social practices?  How are the “revealed knowledges” of art-making distinctly able to address and transform the hidden and not-so-hidden crises that suffuse our social life-worlds? How can form be used or thought through in ways that move beneath (or, like a spirit, above) the radar of familiar frameworks of sense-making, and how can this be connected to social and political remaking, individually and collectively?

These are some of the questions which I was interested in pursuing when I founded VISION LAB in late fall 2017, and which we have been pursuing collectively over the last year and a half, through public workshops, residencies, presentations, collaborations of art and literary work, and experiential retreats, held last year in Vision Lab’s residence at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School, this year through performative engagements with the Radcliffe Gallery Series, and next year in upcoming partnerships with other Harvard and MIT Institutes and the larger Boston arts community. We are currently growing and open to new members and collaborative ideas and venues for 2019/20; anyone in CMP is welcome to participate. Please feel free to contact Kythe Heller with ideas and questions.

WHAT IS VISION LAB? VISION LAB is an experimental lab in the future of the human spirit, based at Harvard Divinity School and hosting events, performances, and collaborations combining radically imaginative cross-disciplinary conversations and experiential practices spanning the areas of contemporary spirituality, social and environmental justice, and literary and artistic practice.


VISION LAB in residence at Center for the Study of World Religions 2018 Workshops

Socially-Engaged Art Practices and Spirituality
Mallory Nezam (artist, Harvard GSD) on making the Mirror Casket Project after the Ferguson Uprising; Lise Balk King (HKS and filmmaker at HBO) on Social Impact Film-making at HBO; Jonathan (J.B.) Fields (HDS) on #TwitterChurch; Kythe Heller (poet/artist and HDS) on Contemporary Mysticism and Writing: Unthinking/Unwriting/Unfilming. Also: interactive group work with collective dreaming and Theater of the Oppressed exercises.

Writing Beyond Borders / Writing Radical Love
Devi Lockwood (poet/artist and Harvard College) on her mission to travel by bike around the world collecting 1,001 stories about climate change and her (related?) new podcast on romantic heartbreak. Kieren Kresevic Salazar (Writer/Harvard College) on subaltern writing practices and  his work co-writing a memoir with his friend Amer who is a Sudanese migrant living in a refugee camp in Kenya. Nadia Colburn (poet/writer) on the relation between writing, self-care, and embodiment practices including an experiential exercise in meditation/Kundalini yoga. Matthew Battles (poet/writer/Director of Harvard metaLab) on his computer collaborations to design new species of moths through radical writing practices and Harvard metaLab experiments in new technology and art.

Living Mysticism: Practices of Body and Spirit
Ashley Clements (HDS) offering a practice of everyday mysticism and visualization exercises emerging from Theosophical studies; Tajay Bongsa (HDS) offering a musical self-investigation practice emerging from his life as a Theravadan Buddhist monk in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and his love of the ukelele; Saima Alvi (MIT) on the interconnections between practicing Sufism and studying mystical Islam and her life and work with the dispossessed in Pakastani politics; Anya Yermakova (FAS) on early 20th century mathematics, Russian mysticism, improvisation theory, and the life of an artist.

Inside Out / Outside In: Spirituality in Social and Environmental Justice 
Prathima Muniyappa (architect, Harvard GSD) will offer thoughts on how to repair destroyed villages in Northern India and address questions around how to repair or re-imagine sacred groves: “How can myth be designed?” Tim Gallati (sound artist, HDS) will engage us in discussing experiences of “silence” in nature and contemplative practice with applications in virtual and augmented realities. His research focuses on accounts of listening to “silence” in sound art, particularly the project One Square Inch of Silence in Olympic Nat’l Park, and has led him to long-term residences at two Trappist monasteries. Greer Simpkins Epstein, a socially-engaged lingerie designer and feminist entrepreneur of Hello Beautiful, offers insights into the fashion world and how to re-imagine how women see themselves, how business practice and product materials can be ethically engaged and environmentally sourced, and the lines of connection between spirituality, sexuality, our personal lives and consumer choices, and manufacturing. Zain Alam Musician and Scholar, Humeysha, HDS) on Border Relations in Pakistan/India in Arts Practice.

Ghosts & Machines: Technology and Spirituality
Can technology grow or evolve in a spiritual direction? A conversation with Williams Powers (MIT Media Lab), Aden Von Noppen (Harvard Divinity School), Ganavya Doraiswamy (Harvard FAS, Department of Music), Umang Kumar (Harvard Divinity School Alumni and Software Engineer).

May Celebration: Januar Ciel [dance artist] offering SkyDance and Technicians of the Dream State with Adam Horowitz (MIT MEDIA LAB)


In conversation with exhibit by Anna Von Mertens “Measure”: with VISION LAB members Michelle Bentsman, Ganavya Doraiswamy, Annie Silverman, Biliana Angelova, Cecile Guedon, Matthew Battles, Matthew Blumberg, Kythe Heller, Andrew Stauffer, Tim Wojcik, Ashley Clements

In conversation with exhibit by Willie Cole “Beauties”: Guest Curated by Karlene Griffiths-Sekou, with Butana Molefe, Andrew Stauffer, Michelle Bentsman, Kythe Heller, and others.