August 26, Symposium

The Rubicon Foundation’s annual Symposium is a weekend of inspiring and challenging presentations, explorations, exchanges, and discussions with an audience of 200 to 250 Northwest thinkers, artists, teachers, and organizers—the people who shape and build our communities. The presentations take place in an open-air barn on the edge of a large field.

Topics for the Symposium have included race and imprisonment, brain structure and imagination, the life and death of newspapers, social-psychological incentives to deny unsettling phenomena such as climate change, city planning in China, recent psilocybin experiments at Johns Hopkins, US drug policy, and much more. Speakers have included scientists, MacArthur and Soros Foundation fellows, and members of the Black Panther Party. Presentations are followed by audience conversations and the weekend ends with discussion over a communal dinner by a notable Seattle chef.

The Symposium welcomes a diverse crowd of people, provides ample space for conversation and contemplation, and is a temporary site for community in action.

Each summer since 2008, an eclectic collection of scientists, artists, economists, designers, philosophers, psychologists, and other thinkers have traveled 60 miles north of Seattle to gather in the big barn at Smoke Farm for a weekend of lectures, conversation, and eating and thinking together.

The event begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning and ends with a big, communal dinner by chef Monica Dimas (Neon Taco, Sunset Fried Chicken, Tortas Condesa). Guests are welcome to camp at the Farm on Saturday night.

This year’s Smoke Farm Sympoisum speakers are:

Blaise Aguera y Arcas: “AI and Us”

Blaise leads Google’s on-device AI programs. He has given TED talks on Sead­ragon and Pho­to­synth (2007, 2012), Bing Maps (2010), and machine creativity (2016).

Jaleh Mansoor: “The Arts of Resistance”

Jaleh Mansoor is a historian who teaches at the University of British Columbia and specializes in twentieth-century European art, Marxism, Marxist feminism, and critical theory. She is also a translator and art critic who has written for Artforum, October, Texte zur Kunst, Protest, and several other publications. Her current book project is tentatively titled Concrete Abstraction: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Labour, and deals with labor, value, and “bare life.”

Tan Vinh: “Hiking Is Bullshit”

Tan Vinh covers the food and drink scene, as well as hiking and camping, for The Seattle Times.

Ellen Forney: “Rock Steady: One Cartoonist’s Brilliant Advice from Her Bipolar Life”

Cartoonist Ellen Forney’s work includes the bestselling graphic memoir, “Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me,” and two permanent large-scale murals for Seattle’s Capitol Hill light rail station. She teaches comics at Cornish College of the Arts and is working on her latest graphic novel, tentatively titled “Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life.”

Jen Graves: “Scale and Volume”

Jen Graves is a person, above all. She’s had a few other labels stick over the years. They are, in chronological order, daughter of a single parent, bad pianist, silent stepdaughter, synchronized swimmer, Olympic hopeful, student of texts (written-visual-musical), writer, public figure, white lady, wife, stepmother, better stepdaughter, Pulitzer Prize finalist, mother, and maker of decisions that may confuse others.

Click here for tickets – available now!