Articles

In-depth coverage of the intersection of art, science, and technology at MIT

News, interviews and stories about the work of the Center for Art, Science & Technology

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Breaking Out of the Box

The History of Empires. Photo credit: Sham Sthankiya.
History of Empires. Photo credit: Sham Sth
An MIT residency unlocks the dreamlike world of dance-theater piece The History of Empires I’ve thought about it before, living in the country…it seems to me, if you’re out there alone, maybe with a farm and fields and trees and the night sky, the stars, you start to think pretty quickly…
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Machine Learning and the Arts: A Creative Continuum

2022-23 CAST Visiting Artist Andreas Refsgaard engages the MIT community in the ethics and play of creative coding   Sketch a doodle of a drum or a saxophone to conjure a multi-instrumental composition. Look into a webcam, speak, and watch your mouth go bouncing across the screen—the input for a series of charmingly clunky chain-reactions.   This is what visitors to the MIT…

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Ballet des Porcelaines

A contemporary reinterpretation of an 18th century ballet at MIT reveals the fragility of orientalist fantasies   A faraway island. An evil magician. A prince transformed into a teapot. A princess on a rescue mission. When the first performance of the Ballet des Porcelaines was staged at the Chateau de Morville in 1739, the orientalist fairytale seemed innocent enough. However, when the art…

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Logo for the New Yorker.

Matthew Ritchie

For compelling proof that painting is, in fact, alive and thriving in the age of A.I., see “The Garden in the Machine,” Matthew Ritchie’s new show at the James Cohan gallery (through Oct. 15).

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Capitalized logo of the Magnetic Magazine
Students performing in a play on stage as part of the Queer-Feminist-Antiracism and Design for the Future class.

Designing for a Free Future

A new course explores the impacts of race, sexuality, and gender on the systems of everyday life For Danielle Wood, understanding identity–how experiences of race, gender, sexuality, and ability affect one’s experience of the world–is critical for designing better systems, whether it’s a musical theater show or a spaceship to Mars. These systems, far from being neutral, reflect the biases of society. How…

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Close up view of the illustrated Promesa Board Game box.

A New Board Game Highlights the Colonized Experience

Departing from games that glorify European conquest, Promesa helps players understand Puerto Rico as a modern-day colony   In the popular board game Puerto Rico, players are placed in the role of colonial governors. Their task, while growing crops on plantations, is to earn points by shipping goods to Europe and owning buildings—the violent project of territorial expansion reduced to a tabletop game…

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Emma Kaye smiling and holding the winning check at the 15k Creative Arts Competition.

A Team Without Rivals: The $15K Creative Arts Competition

Emma Kaye, Sloan ’22 and team Cosmosii win 2022 competition   It is a rare competition where every entrant truly wins. This year’s $15K Creative  Arts Competition was one of those. “This felt less like a competition and more like a learning opportunity than any competition I’ve been involved with,” said Zahra Kanji, ’22 IDM and Sloan, one of the competition’s five finalists…

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Steady Pull

A musician and a visual artist immerse their audience in the science and spirituality of gravity “How ’bout that!” It’s a mild exclamation for a historic moment on the surface of the Moon. In the grainy footage from NASA’s 1971 Apollo 15 mission, astronaut David Scott utters these words after dropping a hammer and a feather side by side, thereby confirming Galileo Galilei’s…

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“Visualizing the Proton” through animation and film

An art-science collaboration tests the limits of visual technologies     Try to picture a proton—the minute, positively charged particle within an atomic nucleus—and you may imagine a familiar, textbook diagram: a bundle of billiard balls representing quarks and gluons. From the solid sphere model first proposed by John Dalton in 1803 to the quantum model put forward by Erwin Schrödinger in 1926,…

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Adesola Akinleye stands in front of the Charles River and Boston Skyline with an arm and a leg raised.

Dance As a Language for Design

For Gediminas Urbonas, the real project isn’t art or design. The real project is language. “At the turn of the last century, artists and designers created a visual language to help explore the complexities of their era–the automobiles and trains and communications that were transforming their lives,” says Urbonas, Associate Professor in the Art, Culture, and Technology program at MIT (ACT.) “Today we…

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Black and white logo of Studio International.

Unfolding Intelligence

This year’s biannual CAST symposium explores the art and science of computation In the popular imagination, artificial intelligence is either a salve or a menace: a bright panacea to optimize our brains and solve all our problems, or a cold interloper threatening our livelihoods, our democracy, and our humanity itself. In bringing together artists, humanists, scientists, and engineers, the MIT CAST symposium, “Unfolding…

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A mountain-like green mound of colored sand, gold, glitter, and crystals sits on a white pedestal in an art gallery.

The Never-ending Artwork

A new online exhibit and film explore iterative and generative processes  In 1975, artist Sol Lewitt created a list of instructions for drawing red, yellow, and blue lines on a wall. A piece of conceptual art, the wall could be endlessly painted over, and anyone could execute the instructions again to create the piece anew. In this way, the work, Wall Drawing, never…

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First prize recipient holds up iPad displaying an image of the ,000 check.

Making the Arts Sustainable: The $15K Creative Arts Competition

There are myriad opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs at MIT—dozens of incubators and accelerators designed to help shepherd the next big thing in robotics or biotech or quantum computing from blackboard to business.  Students wishing to launch a venture in the arts also have options, including the annual $15K Creative Arts Competition. Created in 2013, the competition invites student teams to submit and develop…

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A dopamine still from Jenna Sutela and Markus Buehler's wet-on-wet image.

Finding the Love Hormone in a Stressed Out World

A new art-science collaboration uses molecular structures as creative medium In MIT CAST Visiting Artist Jenna Sutela’s work, which ranges from computational poetry to experimental music to installations and performance, she enlists microbes and neural networks as co-creators. “I want to explore this notion of expanded authorship through bringing in beyond-human life forms,” she said. Inspired by science fiction, she employs both nature’s…

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How to Talk to Ghosts

In a new online project, MIT alum Nancy Valladares finds phantoms in Honduras’s horticultural past   In 1932, the British botanist Dorothy Popenoe died after eating a piece of unripe ackee fruit. The fruit, which originated in West Africa, was grown at the Lancetilla Agricultural Experimental Station in Tela, Honduras, a botanical garden founded by the United Fruit Company in the twenties and directed…

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Daniel Chonde smiles directly at the camera while wearing a colorful bowtie and suit jacket.

Daniel Chonde SB ’07, PhD ‘15

For Dr. Daniel Chonde, art, science, and health don’t just enrich each other — they are inextricably intertwined One of the most consequential lessons Dr. Daniel Chonde (SB ’07, PhD ‘15), a third-year resident in radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, learned as an undergraduate at MIT was about attitude. A physics major, he minored in theater arts and studied with the Class of…

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Thomas Heatherwick. Credit: Elena Heatherwick.

Thomas Heatherwick, 2020 Winner of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts

Finding Connection in Isolation Through Design How can we be together? This is the question that designer Thomas Heatherwick asks. The winner of the 2020 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, renowned for his large-scale public projects around the world, Heatherwick is interested in how design, during what he calls “an epidemic of loneliness,” can facilitate human connection in our shared common…

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People walking in large room with headsets

The Invisible College

In the late days of January in 2020, Matthew Ritchie staged a beta version of his VR game, The Invisible College, in the U-shaped atrium of MIT’s Physics building, a former century-old courtyard. On the bright grid-like floor designed by Sol LeWitt, audiences wandered in fields of images generated by artificial intelligence, virtual worlds created from datasets that spanned the subatomic to the…

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Orbiting

Thom Kubli and Hiroshi Ishii on 3D Printing Floating Sculptures Speculative Machines In Thom Kubli’s “Black Hole Horizon,” a stream of bubbles slides out of a series of three large black horns. With the vibration of the horns churning liquid soap into languorous bubbles, the sound for a brief moment assumes a three-dimensional shape. The bubbles float, giving off a rainbow sheen, until…

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Image for 2020 MIT Sounding MITSO MOVIES MACHOVER

Cancelled: MITSO MOVIES MACHOVER

Due to MIT’s recently updated policy regarding COVID-19, MIT has cancelled the concert MITSO MOVIES MACHOVER. Thank you for your understanding. March 13, 2020 / 8:00pm / Kresge Auditorium Pre-show Composer Talk / 7:00pm / Kresge Little Theater MIT Building W16 48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA Part of the MIT Sounding series   MIT Sounding concert brings together music with visual images  The symphony, in…

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BACH: THE SIX SUITES FOR SOLO CELLO (for solo violin)

JS Bach: Complete Cello Suites Johnny Gandelsman, violin February 8, 2020 / 7:00pm Kresge Auditorium, MIT Building W16 48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA Reserve a seat Following up on his celebrated debut recording of JS Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, Grammy award-winning violinist and producer Johnny Gandelsman (Brooklyn Rider, Silkroad Ensemble) returns to MIT with his new project, presenting Bach’s complete cello suites on the…

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Two Hip-Hop Legends Break Ground on New Musical Territory At MIT

the wave function collapses harbanger DJ Septet Concert January 16, 2020 / 8:00pm MIT Building W97 345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA Reserve a seat Part of the MIT Sounding series See 7 Talented DJ’s Come Together at MIT Sounding In the small, cluttered office where he works—one dominated by piles of books; old, unread magazines; still-wrapped Blu-ray discs; a tall, polychrome figurine of Pam…

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DJ Turntable. Credit Philip Tan.

Take a DJ Class this IAP

DJ Class Offerings in IAP 2020   How DJs Invented Hip-Hop: The Rise and Rise of Turntables in Rap Music January 6–9, 13 & 14, 2020 / 1-3pm (6 sessions) MIT Building W97, Room 160 Though rappers get most of the attention, DJs started hip-hop, and they drive the culture as producers, broadcasters, or artists in their own right. This class will look…

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The Silence, 2019. Credit: Jay Scheib.

Live theater meets peak cinematic modernism in a new work inspired by a Bergman movie

Reserve your ticket to The Silence, part of the MIT Performing Series The Silence Work-in-Progress Performance Directed by Jay Scheib December 12-14, 2019 / 7:30pm Free for students, $5 general admission MIT Theater Building W97, 345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA Jay Scheib revisits Ingmar Bergman’s 1963 masterpiece The Silence as part of MIT Performing Since his death in 2007, Ingmar Bergman, the famed…

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Constanza Macras. Credit: Thomas Aurin.

Location, location, location: Cities are a fertile source of artistic practice for a dance-theater artist

Thinking Choreographically: A Talk with Constanza Macras Thursday, October 31, 2019 / 7:00pm MIT Theater Building, W97 345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA   Boundary-defying dance-theater creator Constanza Macras discusses her approach to text and movement in a lecture as part of MIT Performing. Few who have seen Yorgos Lanthimos’s film The Favourite can forget the scene in which 18th-century courtiers played by Rachel…

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Being Material, MIT Press, 2019. Credit: HErickson/MIT CAST.

Being Material, an Introduction

By Marie-Pier Boucher, Stefan Helmreich, Leila W. Kinney, Skylar Tibbits, Rebecca Uchill, and Evan Ziporyn The following excerpt is from the publication Being Material (2019 MIT Press).   At the intersection of art, science, and technology, the book Being Material explores the worlds of materialities and materialisms today: the unexpected convergences in the practices of artists, designers, engineers, and scientists who work with…

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Iva Bittová. Courtesy of the artist.

The Heart is a Bell: Iva Bittová Makes Joyful Music with the MIT Symphony

The Heart is a Bell: Iva Bittová with MITSO Thursday, October 10, 2019 / 8:00pm MIT Kresge Auditorium, W16 48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 Free for the MIT community     A unique program presents compositions by two female Czech composers. The MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO) begins its 2019-20 season with music inspired by Czech folk music. But instead of the often-played…

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Glenn Branca conducting the Glenn Branca Ensemble, Sonic Circuits Festival, Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington, D.C., 2012.

MIT Sounding Presents Both Sides of Composer Glenn Branca

Audiences experience Branca’s rarely-heard orchestral music and guitar ensemble. September 20th marked the launch of the 2019-20 MIT Sounding series with the adventurous and often emphatically loud music of an American iconoclast. The Music of Glenn Branca Live: The Glenn Branca Ensemble/Ambient Orchestra gave Boston audiences a rare opportunity to hear Branca’s multi-faceted oeuvre, including his eponymous guitar ensemble, led by Reg Bloor,…

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Lisa Dwan presents "A Body of Beckett" at MIT, 2019. Credit: Leon Yim.

2019-20 MIT Performing Celebrates Collaboration in Theater

The season highlights personal and collective storytelling in performance. The powerful trifecta of live cinema, dance theater, and social music informs the 2019-20 MIT Performing series through an inspiring season of lectures, prototypes, research residencies and performances, curated by Jay Scheib, Professor for Theater Arts at MIT. Now in its second year, this season of MIT Performing features a richly-layered series of collaborations,…

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CAST Faculty Director Evan Ziporyn conducts his arrangement of David Bowie's Blackstar, performed by Maya Beiser with the Ambient Orchestra. Photo: Justin Knight.

2019-20 MIT Sounding Explores Far-Reaching Musical Frontiers

The year in music features a range of Boston premieres and diverse collaborations.  Now in its eighth year, 2019-20 MIT Sounding presents another season of wide-ranging musical offerings that have found a vibrant home at MIT. “The program feeds the hunger of a diverse audience for music at MIT,” says Evan Ziporyn, faculty director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology…

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Illustration of a satellite in front of a sun and a red planet.

The Music of the Spheres

Songs from Extrasolar Spaces: Music Inspired by TESS Tuesday, July 30, 2019 8:00-8:30pm: Public Lecture George Ricker, TESS Principal Investigator; Sara Seager, TESS Deputy Director of Science; and Natalia Guerrero, TESS TOI Manager 8:30-9:00pm: Program of music by Lorelei Ensemble Featuring world premieres of new works by John Harbison and Elena Ruehr Free and open to the public, but tickets are required: Reserve…

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Spider's Canvas at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, France on November 23, 2018.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation approves $1 Million grant to MIT to support the further integration of CAST into the research culture of the Institute

Third Mellon grant brings the Mellon Foundation’s total support for CAST to $4,000,000 through 2024 “CAST was established in 2012 with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,” said Faculty Director Evan Ziporyn and Executive Director Leila Kinney,” and we are grateful for the Mellon’s ongoing support, particularly with this third consecutive grant that will provide an extraordinary 12 years of continuous…

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2018 Mellon Faculty Grant Recipient Michael Bove and David Levine's Volumetric Cinema. Credit: HErickson/MIT.

Volumetric Cinema Explores the 360-Degree 3D Holographic Experience

Michael Bove and David Levine collaborate with MIT students to push the boundaries of 3D cinema. Imagine walking into a darkened room. As your eyes adjust, a figure, floating in space, beckons. You get closer. The story begins. Welcome to Volumetric Cinema, and the entrancing visualization of 360-degree 3D holographic cinema. The project began in a January 2019 IAP class led by V….

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Performer BIC Shares the Joy of Music and Poetry to Promote Social Equity

The Haitian poet and rapper discusses the rich outcomes of a week-long residency at MIT. Can art, poetry and music generate social change? That question was  enthusiastically explored this April during a visiting artist residency with Haitian poet and rapper BIC. The week-long visit included workshops, classroom collaborations, and two concerts, both on and off-campus, as part of the 2018-19 MIT Sounding Series,…

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3 Questions: Sarah Schwettmann on the interface between art and neuroscience

The MIT PhD student explains how the study of visual perception can translate students’ creativity across domains. Computational neuroscientist Sarah Schwettmann is one of three instructors behind the cross-disciplinary course 9.S52/9.S916 Vision in Art and Neuroscience, which introduces students to core concepts in visual perception through the lenses of art and neuroscience. Supported by a faculty grant from the Center for Art, Science…

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Joel Fan poses on a piano bench on a street.

Pianist Joel Fan Brings an Adventurous Mix of New Music to MIT

DON’T WANT TO WAIT Joel Fan, solo piano Featuring works by MIT Faculty Composers April 18, 2019 / 8:00pm MIT Killian Hall, 14W-111 160 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA Part of the MIT Sounding series Reserve tickets The acclaimed soloist features a program of premieres by MIT composers It may look like a lopsided assembly of hammers, dampers, and keys, but in the right…

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Image: Playwright and MIT Senior Lecturer Ken Urban's The Immortals. Credit Melissa Blackall.

Observations from The Immortals workshop at MIT

Students share their experiences from a workshop with theater professionals Director Logan Vaughn, dramaturg Ignacia Delgado, and actors Heather Alicia Simms, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Naomi Jacobson, and Jordan Geiger came together at MIT to work with Ken Urban, Senior Lecturer in Music and Theater Arts to workshop his new play, The Immortals. A comedy, The Immortals tells the story of Alice, the only…

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Image: Milkdrop. Credit: Jessica Adams.

MIT Student Artwork Finds a Home at the Stata Center

Finalists of the Stata Street Artwork Competition capture the MIT experience. The next time you’re in the Ray and Maria Stata Center, take a walk down Charles M. Vest Student Street where you’ll find the ten winners of the Stata Street Artwork Competition on display. The images, known as the Stata Street Murals, were chosen for their creativity in depicting student life, learning…

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A mural from The House of Correction AR Mural Project. The project is an ongoing collaboration between The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and several groups at MIT including Music and Theater Arts, The Borderline Mural Project, The Educational Justice Institute (TEJI), and Arts at MIT. Credit Leon Yim.

MIT Students Find Rich Rewards in Working on the HOC AR Mural Project

The community project provided a close up of prison life and revealed the power of art to inspire and transform. When MIT freshman Sherry Xiao and MIT junior Helen Read signed up to participate in the House Of Correction Augmented Reality Mural Project, both had limited experience with the realities of prison life. Both students simply thought the IAP sounded like a cool,…

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Artist standing in front of a large wall painting.

An Artist Inquires into the Computational Substrate at MIT

Matthew Ritchie researches technology’s growing scope as CAST visiting artist. Matthew Ritchie is no stranger to the MIT campus. The contemporary artist, who works in installation, performance, painting, drawing, sculpture and sound, created a site-specific installation at the Zesiger Center in 2002 and later collaborated on a multimedia performance piece with MIT students and composer Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music…

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Judith, Workshop Performance created by CAST Visiting Artist Karin Coonrod and MIT professor Diana Henderson. Courtesy of the artist.

Karin Coonrod Envisions a Medieval Heroine for Modern Times

Judith Workshop Presentation Tuesday, March 5, 2019 / 7:30pm MIT Building W97 345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA The innovative theater director discusses Judith and her CAST residency with Professor Diana Henderson. All hail Judith, the female Beowulf! The medieval heroine gets a fresh reboot in a new theater production by global dynamo Karin Coonrod, who brings her innovative take on the Old English…

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