Block Cinema awarded Science on Screen grant to explore films of “Inner and Outer Space”

This season Block Cinema in among 40 national organizations selected by the Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as 2022−23 recipients of the Science on Screen® grant program. Selected recipients receive funds to create Science on Screen events, which pair expert-led discussions of scientific topics with screenings of feature and documentary films to promote scientific literacy.

Since partnering with Sloan in 2011, the Coolidge has awarded over $2.5 million in grants to 108 film and science-focused organizations in 42 states across the country.Science on Screen features classic, cult, and documentary films provocatively matched with presentations by experts who discuss scientific, technological, or medical issues raised by each film. The Coolidge/Sloan Foundation nationwide Science on Screen partnership seeks to inspire in theater-goers an increased appreciation for science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics as compelling enterprises and vital elements of a broad understanding of human culture and current events. ““We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Coolidge Corner Theatre to support the Science on Screen program,” said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Sloan Foundation. “These events, which pair expert speakers with popular titles demonstrate that science can illuminate films just as films can illuminate science.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition The Heart’s Knowledge: Science and Empathy in the Art of Dario Robletothe Block Museum’s Science on Screen series “Inner and Outer Space” explores representations of the inner workings of the human body and the celestial mechanics of the cosmos throughout the history of cinema.

Across its Winter and Spring 2023 calendars, Block Cinema will present a range of screenings, from cult classics to silent treasures and contemporary blockbusters, that resonate with the key themes of Dario Robleto’s artwork: the role of new technologies in expanding humanity’s spatial and perceptual reach; the emotional consequences of scientific discovery; the role that art can play in transcending boundaries that separate us. 

Science on Screen emphasizes presentations by scientists and experts in conjunction with screenings that appeal to wide audiences, a program that directly aligns with The Block Museum’s stated mission of convening interdisciplinary discussions in which art is a springboard for exploring issues and ideas.

“With Science on Screen, we hope to deepen our ties with the sciences on campus as never before, using the universality of cinema to illuminate the links between medicine, astronomy, and the arts. As a crossroads between campus and community, we also serve the crucial function of making University scholarship visible and legible to general audiences. This work is especially important at Northwestern: The Block is a hub on campus where curious audiences can come together to encounter the brilliant, transformative research and scholarship emerging at the university,” notes Michael Metzger, The Block’s Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts.

“While Northwestern prides itself on supporting interdisciplinary research and education, divisions between the humanities and sciences are entrenched in much of academia. Siloed approaches do a disservice to students and community members, whose diverse interests do not conform to the neat boundaries of disciplines and schools. Our Science on Screen program, “Inner and Outer Space,” will meet this need by introducing audiences to the many ways that cinema has been an instrument of scientific education, research, and popular awareness”

Science on Screen: X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES (1963) on 35mm

Friday, February 10, 7PM

Roger Corman’s visionary sci-fi classic follows a scientist (Ray Milland) who develops eyedrops that allows him to see beyond the spectrum of visible light, penetrating mysteries of the human body and the deepest reaches of the cosmos. What starts out as a hospital drama about medical ethics takes more than one turn towards the lurid and the hallucinatory—asking profound questions about the limits of vision along the way. This 35mm screening features an introduction by Dr. Catherine Belling, Associate Professor of Medical Education at NU, whose research explores the ways that horror films reflect widely-held fears and uncertainties about our bodies and about the medical profession.

About the speaker:

Catherine Belling is Associate Professor of Medical Education and core faculty of the graduate program in Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Her first book, A Condition of Doubt: The Meanings of Hypochondria (Oxford University Press, 2012), won the 2013 Kendrick Book Prize (Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts). She chaired the Modern Language Association division on Medical Humanities & Health Studies, served on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, and was editor-in-chief of the journal Literature and Medicine (2013 – 2018). She has published in the Journal of Medical Humanities; Literature and Medicine; the UK Journal of Literature and Science; Narrative; Perspectives in Biology and Medicine; the Journal of Clinical Ethics; and Academic Medicine, among others. Her current work explores horror—both the feeling and the genre—in medicine.

Science on Screen: FIRST MAN (2018)

Saturday, February 18, 1PM

Damien Chazelle’s meticulously-realized film follows astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and wife Janet (Claire Foy) on the long and difficult path that led from the death of their daughter Karen in 1962 to his 1969 moon landing. While FIRST MAN has no shortage of thrilling astronautical sequences, Chazelle is less interested in the conquest of outer space than in the inner life of its protagonist, a withdrawn man straining to maintain his composure in the face of tragedy and doubt. Grounded in universal human emotions and in the material realities of space flight, FIRST MAN transcends spectacle and myth to offer an intimate and original perspective on one of the most famous scientific achievements in history.

The screening will feature an in-depth introduction by Jordan Bimm, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago’s Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, who will discuss the military origins of “space medicine,” the psychological and physical ordeals sustained by test subjects and aspiring astronauts, and the cultural forces that shaped the image of the model astronaut in the 1950s.

About the speaker:

Jordan Bimm is a historian of science at the University of Chicago’s Institute on the Formation of Knowledge. His research focuses on the human and biological problems of space exploration, especially the fields of space medicine and astrobiology. His forthcoming book, Anticipating the Astronaut (The MIT Press) explores pre-NASA studies and experiments with a surprising array of test-subjects to define an ideal spacefaring body and mind. His research has won the Sacknoff Prize for Space History, the History of Science Society’s NASA Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. His work has been featured in The New York Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, and The Atlantic.

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