High Z

The Project

Led by Canadian playwright and interdisciplinary artist Naïma Kristel Phillips and astrophysicist Dr. Lara Arielle Phillips, High Z is a project to create an immersive exhibition based on the 2011 Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe. At its core is an exploration of the abilities of art, science and technology to inform, inspire and transform human interactions. An international collaboration with two theatre practitioners (Fatma Sarah Elkashef and Dr. Yael Prizant), and an astrophysicist (Dr. Keith Davis), High Z transcends the boundaries between theatre, digital arts and astrophysics.

In the late 90s, two teams of astronomers raced to find the rate at which the expansion of the universe was slowing down. Their astonishing result was the opposite of what they expected. The expansion was speeding up, pointing to the existence of a dark energy that permeates the whole universe and counteracts matter’s pull. "We discovered most of the Universe in 1998" wrote Nicholas Suntzeff, member and co-founder of the High-Z Team, following the announcement of the Nobel Prize.

High Z has taken Naïma and Arielle from Aspen, Colorado to La Serena, Chile to conduct video interviews of the High Z Supernova Search Team, one of the two teams responsible for the discovery. The group is creating a collage-based installation that maps the multi-year process of the discovery onto a multi-hour period. With the help of emails exchanged by the team members, video interviews and animations of the universe, the piece will function as a time capsule of the scientists’ collaboration. High Z will be interactive, allowing audiences at planetariums, art galleries, and international festivals to directly engage with this momentous scientific breakthrough.

Creative Team
Lara Arielle Phillips, producer and director, oral histories (Chicago)
Naïma Kristel Phillips, producer and director, installation (Montréal)
Keith Davis, director, DVT (South Bend)
Fatma Sarah Elkashef, dramaturg (Montréal)
Yael Prizant, dramaturg (Bologna)

The following members of the High Z Supernova Search Team have confirmed their participation for the interviews:

Peter Challis, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Alejandro Clocchiatti, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
Alex V. Filippenko, University of California, Berkeley, California
Peter M. Garnavich, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana
Craig J. Hogan, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Saraubh Jha, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey
Robert Kirshner, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts
Bruno Leibundgut, European Southern Observatory (ESO), Garching, Germany
Mark M. Phillips, Las Campanas Observatory, Atacama Region, Chile
David Reiss, Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, WA
Brian P. Schmidt (2011 Physics Nobel Prize Laureate), Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Chris Smith, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Chile
Jason Spyromilio, European Southern Observatory (ESO), Garching, Germany
Christopher Stubbs, Harvard University, Boston, MA
Nicholas B. Suntzeff, Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas
John L. Tonry, University of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy, Honolulu, Hawaii

José Maza, Universidad de Chile, Cerro Calán (Las Condes), National Astronomical Observatory, Chile
Mario Hamuy, Universidad de Chile, Cerro Calán (Las Condes), Chile
Roberto Antezana, Universidad de Chile, Cerro Calán (Las Condes), Chile
Luis González, Universidad de Chile, Cerro Calán (Las Condes), Chile

Canada Council for the Arts
Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts
Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas
Luksic Foundation, University of Notre Dame

Digital Visualization Theatre, University of Notre Dame
Langlab, South Bend, Indiana
Playwrights' Workshop Montréal
PRIM Centre

Naïma Kristel Phillips

Naïma Kristel Phillips is a playwright and interdisciplinary artist based in Montreal. She is committed to finding innovative ways of portraying human existence and collaborating with communities. She moved to France for two years to practice voice performance and choreographic theatre with Enrique Pardo, Linda Wise and Elizabeth Mayer, directors of Pantheatre and co-founders of the Roy Hart Centre (Paris and Malérargues). Naïma performed solos in the Myth and Theatre Festival and the Voice and Music Performance Workshop. She received mentorship from choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and was invited for a residency with Eastman during the creation of Puz/zle (Festival d’Avignon). Her playwriting credits include Birthday Triage (Horace Mann Theater), My Artichoke Heart (Dream Up Festival, Theater for the New City) and Night Spell (Nextfest). Naïma is a recipient of the Gloria Mitchell-Aleong Award and the Shubert Presidential Fellowship. She is a member of the Playwrights’ Unit at PWM (Playwrights Workshop Montréal). She has taught at Bishop’s University and gives workshops through the Culture in the Schools Program. Naïma holds an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University.