Brazilian artist Vik Muniz radically transforms our understanding of image-making by using shifts in scale, photographic manipulation and unexpected materials — from dust and chocolate to grains of sand and industrial garbage — to explore the nature of visual cognition.

Vik Muniz

Vik Muniz is known for his deep exploration of visual perception and reproductive technologies, informed by the history of science and art, as well as for his extraordinary film Waste Land, which will be screened during the residency. Learn more about Vik Muniz.


While at MIT, Vik Muniz pursues his interests in image production and visual literacy, working with researchers in biology, optics and engineering.

In collaboration with Marcelo Coelho, a PhD candidate in the Fluid Interfaces Group, and Rehmi Post, a research scientist at the Center for Bits and Atoms, Muniz develops a process to machine microscopic images onto millimeter-wide grains of sand, which later become large, high-resolution prints.

Vik Muniz's residency is presented by the Visiting Artists Program and Alexander W. Dreyfoos Professor in MIT's Program in Media Arts and Sciences, Pattie Maes.

Public Events

Artist Presentations
Artist Talk with Vik Muniz
October 3, 2012

MIT Visiting Artist Vik Muniz presents a selection of projects relevant to his residency at MIT, providing a rare opportunity to learn what an artist sees “behind the curtain of science.” Vik is joined by Pattie Maes, founder and director of the Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group and PhD candidate Marcello Coelho.

Film Screenings
Waste Land
October 2, 2012

Filmed over nearly three years, the Academy Award-nominated film Waste Land follows MIT Visiting Artist Vik Muniz from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of catadores—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives. Director Lucy Walker and co-directors João Jardim and Karen Harley offer stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit. Learn more about the film.


Artist Presentations
Production of Sandcastle Project
October 5, 2012

Class Visits
October 1, 2012

Fab Lab
October 4, 2012 and February 27, 2013

Exploratory Research
Lunch Symposium on Imaging and Visual Literacy
October 1, 2012

High Low Tech Group
October 2, 2012

Fluid Interface Group
October 2, 2012

Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies
October 2, 2012 and February 26-27, 2013

Camera Culture Group
October 2, 2012

Tangible Media Group
October 3, 2012

Roundtable with Dietmar Offenhuber
October 3, 2012

Center for Bits and Atoms
October 4, 2012

Department of Materials Science and Engineering
February 26, 2013


Using bacteria, cancer and liver cells as the medium, Muniz and Tal Danino, a postdoctoral associate in Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia’s lab at the Koch Institute for Integrated Cancer Research, went on to further collaborate on a series of patterns and portraits using the bacteria as “paint” in much the same way that stencils or silk-screens are made. Muniz and Danino hope these images will bring awareness to the importance of microscopic organisms, which are vital to life and also can be designed diagnose and treat disease. For more information, check out “Painting with Bacteria” on the CAST Blog.

Marcelo Coelho is a PhD student in the MIT Program in Media Arts and Sciences Fluid Interfaces Group.

Neil Gershenfeld is the Director of The MIT Center for Bits and Atoms.

Pattie Maes is the Associate Head and Alexander W. Dreyfoos Professor in the MIT Program in Media Arts and Sciences.

Libby McDonald is the Program Director of MIT Global Sustainability Partnerships.

Jennifer Jacobs is a Research Assistant in the MIT High/Low Tech group.

Steven Keating is a Research Assistant in the MIT Mediated Matter group.

Natalie Kuldell is an Instructor of Biological Engineering in the MIT Department of Biological Engineering.

David Robert is a Research Assistant in the MIT Personal Robots group.

Eric Rosenbaum is a Research Assistant in the MIT Life Long Kindergarten group.


CAST Blog: Painting with Bacteria

Tel Aviv Museum of Art: Pictures of Anything

The Creators Project: Creating Sand Castles With A Single Grain Of Sand