Marisa Jahn: Art in Unexpected Places

In the late night television talk show, “Si, ya veo,” the pop back-up dancers Las Burbujitos (“The Bubblies”) sing songs about the wonders of eco-friendly cleaning products. Los Pulmones (“The Lungs”) make an appearance to impart a message about workplace safety. An evil virus talks about health. Designed to broadcast important information for domestic workers, the television show is the latest public art piece — at the intersection of the fantastical and the public safety announcement — by MIT alumna Marisa Jahn, a current fellow at MIT Open Doc Labs. Continue reading

Olafur Eliasson receives 2014 McDermott Award

The Council for the Arts at MIT is pleased to announce that Olafur Eliasson is the recipient of the 2014, 40th anniversary Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. Renowned for the multi-faceted practice of his studio in Berlin, Eliasson creates ambitious public art projects, large-scale installations, architectural pavilions, major art exhibitions, spatial experiments, sensory experiences and a distinctive art and social business enterprise — Little Sun, a solar powered lamp that is “a work of art that works in life.” Eliasson’s creative practice above all reveals that art shapes life in a way that transforms reality.
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Picturing Science: Felice Frankel

Frankel has made a career of communicating the rigor and wonder of science through visual methods, from depictions of oxidizing metal to bacteria colonies, nanocrystals to microfluidics. She is interested in “imagery as a means of inquiry,” an invitation to further discovery of the physical world, both the observable and the microscopic. In her work, the image is a vehicle to understanding. She makes scientific images — at once visually arresting and content-rich — to teach, to learn, to communicate, and to ignite a particular brand of scientific curiosity about the world around us. Continue reading

Damrosch & Kent Inaugurate Ampersand Concert Series

For the inaugural concert in the new collaborative series between the List Visual Arts Center and WMBR, called “Ampersand,” about 100 people were treated to an exceptional evening of solo-performances. Luke Damrosch opened with an incredible 45-minute, solo drum performance that signaled to me one of the most exciting directions in years for experimental music. Continue reading

Kinetic Art from an Eclectic Man

How does a gigantic glass LCD display represent nature? The 90-foot long “ribbon” that slices through the atrium of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences shows animated patterns inspired by nature, from flying birds to clouds floating across the sky.

Titled “Patterned by Nature,” the sculpture is an impressive crossover between engineering, art, and the natural world. Its creator, Jeff Lieberman ’00, SM ’04, SM ’06, has been studying the intersection of art and science for years and “Patterned by Nature” is the perfect manifestation of this belief. Continue reading

Studio/Lab: Trope Tank

The Trope Tank is directed by Nick Montfort, an Associate Professor of Digital Media in MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. As a lab for research, teaching, and creative production, the mission of the Trope Tank is to develop new poetic practices and new understandings of digital media by focusing on the material, formal, and historical aspects of computation and language.
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Painting with Bacteria

Spliced with the same protein molecule that causes jellyfish to light up so brilliantly, Tal Danino’s e. coli bacteria pulse and flash like blinking neon signs. Danino, an MIT postdoc in Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia’s lab at the Koch Institute for Integrated Cancer Research, programmed the bacteria to release the protein through a phenomenon called quorum sensing, a way in which bacteria communicate with one another in order to function as a group. Continue reading

The Lab as Observational Art

“I was observing their observations,” said Peter McMurray, a doctoral student in Harvard’s Ethnomusicology program, who recently completed a short documentary on MIT’s new Glass Band, screening it on Wednesday as part of the program “The Lab as Observational Art.” Continue reading

Reinventing Invention

An expandable table. A collapsible CNC router. Motorized wheels whose diameter can enlarge and contract depending on the terrain. These are a few of the examples of “transformable design” now on display from the course, “Mechanical Invention Through Computation” led by visiting designer, engineer and inventor Chuck Hoberman. The seminar, co-taught with MIT professors Erik Demaine and Daniela Rus from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), was driven by a simple question: How can you create new transformable objects?
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HAPPY ACCIDENTS: Pamela Z and Hauschka

Pamela Z and Hauschka met only moments before their back-to-back lecture/demonstrations last Wednesday; two days later they performed together, improvising a duo midway through the Friday night CAST Marathon in Kresge Auditorium, and sounding as if they’d been playing together for years. This was perhaps one form of the ‘happy accident’ that Pamela had spoken of in her talk, but the level of simpatico was too palpable to be just that. The shared sensibilities between two such distinct artists says something about where we are musically and culturally, and perhaps where we’re going as well. Continue reading

CAST Marathon Concert


It was likely the first time Senegalese sabar drums, a cello, a didgeridoo, an accordion, a piano and panpipes made from test tubes all occupied one stage together. A follow-up to 2011′s FAST Forward Marathon concert, the concert celebrated the convergence of art and technology — from simple percussive acts to the most sophisticated gestural controls — and showcased the many creative tools and techniques used by artists from MIT and beyond. Continue reading

Music/Tech: Christopher Janney

In 1976, Christopher Janney was one of only four graduate students to enroll in MIT’s new masters program in Environmental Art, where he first began his formal experiments combining architecture and jazz under Otto Piene, Director of MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, founded in 1967. His thesis, “SOUNDSTAIR: The Nature of Environmental/Participatory Art,” was performed on many iconic stairways — from the Spanish Steps in Rome to MIT’s own Building 7 — in which the dancer’s footsteps would trigger sounds, altered in real-time by Janney. In essence, the entire building became a musical instrument.

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Arnold Dreyblatt’s Magnetic Resonances

I first heard Arnold Dreyblatt’s music while couch surfing in the early 1980s, in a loft in what we still were getting used to calling Tribeca. The picture on the album cover was enough to do it for me, but the music was something else entirely. Metallic shards of overtones, emanating from what I eventually learned to be Arnold’s bass, in simple but mesmerizing rhythms, shooting off in all directions, latched onto by other instruments with similarly resonant qualities – his Orchestra of Excited Strings. Continue reading

Music/Tech: Victor Gama

Victor Gama is a composer whose process begins with the creation of an entirely new instrument, one whose design is steeped in symbolic meaning. Concept design, the selection of materials, fabrication, and scoring is all part of the rigorous way Gama creates new music for the 21st century, blending current fabrication technologies with ideas, materials, and traditions inspired by the natural world. Continue reading

EVIYAN Premieres as part of CAST Spring Sound Series

The musical trio EVIYAN was born in vocalist-violinist Iva Bittová’s house in the woods of the Hudson Valley after a few bowls of mushroom soup. In that rustic setting, performer-composers Bittová, Gyan Riley and Evan Ziporyn came together for the first time to create the kind of loose musical tapestries — weaving elements of the classical, folk, jazz, minimalist and global traditions — that debuted to high acclaim on Saturday, March 2 at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. “It felt like a family reunion,” says Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music and Faculty Director of the Center for Art, Science & Technology. Continue reading

Music/Tech: Eric Singer

The Sonic Banana, both playful and ingenious, is emblematic of Singer’s work. Singer is the founder of LEMUR, the “League of League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots,” a collective of artists and technologists who create robotic musical instruments. A self-described “engineer of very strange things,” Singers works as a musician, artist, and computer scientist to create interactive installations from unusual materials. Created with a DIY ethos, his instruments are playful, interactive, and intuitive. His philosophy: “How do I take things that aren’t musical instruments and turn them into musical instruments?” Continue reading

Music/Tech: David Sheppard

“The room is the most important instrument I play,” Sheppard said. In 2011, he transformed the entire concrete hulk of a former Nazi submarine station into a musical piece, drawing attention to the acoustic properties of the airport-sized docking point while at the same time creating an environment for other musicians to inhabit. Alone and with others, he calibrates the structural relationship between acoustics and physical space to create the conditions of new possibility.
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Glass Music

A couple of weeks ago, CAST Visiting Artist Mark Stewart brought an electronic looper to the MIT Glass Lab to record and overlay sound loops. In composing their collective piece for the CAST Marathon concert, each member of the Glass Orchestra will add the sound of their instrument (one at a time) to the loop until they have a richly textured piece. In this photo, Kenny Cheung (Postdoctoral Associate, Media Lab) and Mason Glidden (BS, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science ’14) add blown-bottle sounds to the looper. Continue reading

Music/Tech: Suzanne Bocanegra

Suzanne Bocanegra’s performance piece-cum-film, “When a Priest Married a Witch,” is a kind of creative origin story, the portrait of the artist as a young woman. She writes on her website it is “part artist’s talk, part performance, part cultural history, part sound installation.” Showing a rough cut of the film, Bocanegra kicked off CAST’s Spring Sound series as the first in a series of lecture/demonstrations by prominent sound and multimedia artists. Part of the MIT course, Music and Technology, the lecture/demonstrations are open to both students and the general public alike. Continue reading

Saraceno: Conversations on Cosmology

In Tomás Saraceno’s most recent installation On Space Time Foam, visitors are invited to enter three clear membranes of plastic suspended 25-meters in the air. The installation creates a new bodily experience, transforming everyday perceptions of space and one’s relationship to others. In this work, he takes as his material and inspiration the basics of physics: mass, energy, space, and gravity. At MIT, he had the opportunity to share his work with physicists Jerome Friedman and Robert Jaffe, Edward Farhi, and Alan Guth from MIT’s Center for Theoretical Physics. Continue reading

Saraceno: Conversations on Atmosphere

The dream of Saraceno’s ongoing project, “Cloud City,” is not only to live among the clouds but also to create cities more like clouds – changeable, mobile, and responsive to atmospheric shifts. His experimental sculptures, expressing an aerial vision for the future, are often prototypes for incubating an interconnected existence in the sky. At MIT, Lodovica Illari, Adrian Dalca and Michael Rubinstein, and John Hansman shared with Saraceno their expertise on atmosphere and flight, representing the exciting possibilities in hinging visionary thinking to technical expertise, imaginative speculation to material realities. Continue reading

Saraceno: Conversations on Biomimicry

When asked who the audience was for his work during a public lecture here at MIT, Tomás Saraceno replied, “spiders!” Here we explore the artist’s ongoing interest in biomimicry –- the creative application of natural systems and processes towards human solutions -– through the work of several MIT researchers. Like Saraceno – whose aerial installations take inspiration from spider webs, soap bubbles, neural circuits, and cosmology – faculty Markus Buehler, Neri Oxman, and Dörthe Eisele are similarly interested in harnessing the power of nature to create new materials for a more sustainable future. Continue reading