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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Chloe Bensahel, credit Cyrille de La Motte Rouge

Weaving Memory into Textiles

For the MIT visiting artist Chloé Bensahel, fabric itself tells the story   In 2021, a curator at the Smithsonian contacted Chloé Bensahel, currently the MIT 2023-24 Ida Ely Rubin Artist in Residence, and told her about some objects that had been made for space missions. “They were weavings of conductive yarn with magnetic pieces in them,” Bensahel said. “After World War II,…

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Evan Ziporyn Solo, credit Caroline Alden

Evan Ziporyn Solo: Moondog, Riley, Glass

Celebrating the connections between minimalism and pop with the clarinet   In his recent concert, Evan Ziporyn Solo: Moondog, Riley, Glass, the composer and clarinetist premiered works by three major figures in American minimalism, while also performing arrangements of pop songs from his 2022 album Pop Channel. “These were composers on my bucket list,” says the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music, who…

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An MIT student looks into a microscope while another student looks on.

Creative Collisions: Crossing the Art-Science Divide

A partnership between ACT and MIT.nano, the class “Creating Art, Thinking Science” asks what it really takes to cultivate dialogue between disciplines   MIT has a rich history of productive collaboration between the arts and the sciences, anchored by the conviction that these two conventionally opposed ways of thinking can form a deeply generative symbiosis that serves to advance and humanize new technologies. …

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Time travel course

Laughing Through Time and Space: The Art and Science of Time Travel

“I love reading science fiction,” says Nigel Shen, a first-year graduate student in Computational Science and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. “But the science fiction I love the best is written by people who have a firm grasp on science. That gives them the tools to explore the frontiers of the human imagination.” Shen was able to explore his passion for science fiction—and to…

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Albert Figurt presents his project on a big screen to a group seated on bleachers.

From The Big Screen to The New Next Best Spot: The Desktop

Albert Figurt’s residency at MIT CAST has involved Grammy-winning rappers, guerrilla filmmaking, and generating some vapor-rich STEAM from STEM students Cambridge, MA—“Is it possible to make a film without cameras, or to develop a story without sounds?”   Albert Figurt has a mischievous smile on his face as he engages with more than a dozen MIT community members at the new InnovationHQ space…

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Illustrating environmental crises in India

Illustrating India’s Complex Environmental Crises

A CAST Visiting Artist project traces the history of cause and effect that have led India to its current crossroads.   Abhijit Banerjee, Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics, and CAST Visiting Artist Sarnath Banerjee (no relation) share a similar background, but have very different ways of thinking. Both were raised for a time in Kolkata before leaving India to pursue divergent careers,…

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Reimagining the Opera of the Future 

The iconic sci-fi opera VALIS reboots for a new generation    In the mid-eighties, composer Tod Machover came across a copy of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novel VALIS in a Parisian bookstore. Based on a mystical vision Dick called his “pink light experience,” VALIS was an acronym for “vast active living intelligence system.” The metaphysical novel would become the basis for Machover’s…

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Transforming a Wasted Resource for Public Good

Jaffer Kolb and his collaborators are working to turn architectural waste into shared community infrastructure When Jaffer Kolb, a lecturer in the Department of Architecture at MIT, refers to himself and his collaborators as “garbage people,” he’s talking about the materials they repurposed into an innovative public works project. Testbeds, currently featured in the exhibition Architecture Now: New York, New Publics at the…

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Grid of colorful stills from six separate video interpolations trained on photo documentation of six key Yugoslavian memorial monuments.

Can Architects Apply AI to Hack the Future?

A new AI video installation dramatizes the technology’s potential to influence memory, desire, and the perception of history What makes a memory? And how might that memory affect what it is possible for an individual to think, to feel, and to see—subtly guiding the choices and actions that determine the course of our shared future? These are some of the questions that might…

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Pamela Z stands with one arm raised, in front of electronics, several laptops, and a microphone wearing black clothing.

Pamela Z: Singing the Body Electric

Combining digital technology with the human voice, Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT winner Pamela Z creates layered music from everyday life In the mid-eighties, artist Pamela Z was working at Tower Records on Columbus Street in San Francisco, where one of her jobs was replacing pages in the store’s Phonolog, an enormous alphabetized directory of all the music available at…

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The Amazon Inspires New Music at MIT

Visiting musician Clarice Assad applies her inclusive approach to a new project about the Amazon   The accomplishments of Brazilian-American composer, vocalist, and pianist Clarice Assad are many. She has won accolades, earned prestigious residencies, and her work is performed around the world. Last year, her album “Archetypes,” which she recorded with her father, guitarist Sérgio Assad, and the Third Coast Percussion ensemble,…

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MIT Students Find Their Voice

With her one-of-a-kind musical style, Distinguished Visiting Artist Iva Bittová helps students make music that is authentically their own   On a weekend in September, a group of students from MIT’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble visited CAST Distinguished Visiting Artist Iva Bittová’s house in rural Rhinebeck, New York. When they arrived, the acclaimed Czech singer and violinist was in the front yard wearing Mary…

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Comedy Meets Math in A New Opera at MIT

A new opera by MIT music lecturer Elena Ruehr turns the real-life inventors of modern computing into crime-fighters   Over the course of her career, the composer Elena Ruehr has found inspiration in very different writers and very different worlds: she has set poems by Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes to music, for example.   Her latest project, “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace…

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Steampunk Met Multiverse

“The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage,” a graphic novel by Sidney Padua, offers a playful take on the lives of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, two seminal figures in the world of computer science. The novel follows their journey as they bring Babbage’s Analytical Engine to life, embarking on a series of adventures filled with humor, espionage, and intrigue in a Victorian…

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Students stand in a bright warehouse around a pink foam sculpture of a mountain.

Taking the Long View: The Deep Time Project

Architecture students address the urgent need to reframe the relationship between design and time How would we design and build differently if we learned to live at multiple time scales? How would human communities respond to global challenges if the short-term mindset of contemporary life was expanded to encompass new dimensions of past and future—diving into the depths of geological history and projecting…

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Breaking Out of the Box

The History of Empires. Photo credit: Sham Sthankiya.
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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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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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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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


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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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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