A very large book with multicolored gradients on the all pages.
Tauba Auerbach, RGB Colorspace Atlas, 2011. Photographs by Vegard Kleven.

Seeing – Color

The visual pathway has been mapped more comprehensively than almost any other perceptual process. Given vision’s privileged status in forming knowledge (“I see”), science has considerable confidence that we are beginning to “know how we know.” But if we focus on a single aspect of sight – proprioceptive sight, or so-called “blindsight,” or color, or synesthesia, or the plasticity of mind that takes haptic signals and “remaps” them onto the visual cortex – we encounter much more complicated terrain. Artists are tireless empiricists when it comes to visual cognition; this session puts them in discussion with scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers to engage new questions about sight, beginning with color.

Caroline Jones, Professor of Art History, Theory & Criticism, MIT

Tauba Auerbach, Artist
Bevil Conway, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Wellesley College
Alma Steingart, Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows

Friday, September 26, 2014
1:30–4:00 pm
Media Lab, MIT Building E14-674

Watch the speakers:
Part One
Part Two

A man sits at a table with a coffee cup
Bruno Latour. Credit: Norvegiens.

Keynote - Bruno Latour

Immanuel Kant founded a philosophy on the notion of a “common sense.” Through sensory experience we would slowly accumulate knowledge of the world, and in sharing it, form human culture. But is there a common sense, or merely convention established through language? Does science form a genuinely alternative way of knowing the world, or merely establish different practices for describing it? In his philosophy and sociology of science, Bruno Latour has established a profound social difference between “matters of fact” that science can produce and “matters of concern” that communities of non-scientists agree on.

Bruno Latour, Professor, Sciences Po Paris

David Kaiser, Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and Senior Lecturer, Department of Physics, MIT

Tomaso Poggio, Eugene McDermott Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Friday, September 26, 2014
Media Lab, MIT Building E14-674

Watch the keynote

A man sits in a large room with musical instruments spread out around him.
Alvin Lucier rehearsing his piece Music for Solo Performer (1965) for enormously amplified brain waves and percussion at the festival Dag in de Branding, 2010. Credit: Pablo Sanz Almoguera, via Wikimedia Commons 2013.

Sounding – Resonance

Metaphorically, in English we “sound out” an idea, a person, or a vessel – sonic explorations of subjectivity or tests of worth. That “resonance” has extensive cultural and cognitive significance. How do we know what we hear? How do we know what is inside our heads and what is outside? Following on the previous day’s session on color, which asked about the relation between the subjective, objective, mathematical, and intersubjective apprehension of color, this session asks about the quality of sound as experience. What is the relation between auditory perception and hallucination? What are the boundaries of hearing? Why does it matter, and to whom? Engaging music and noise, artists and live musicians, installations and recordings, computation and human sensory capacities, acousmata and precise directional signals, this session will explore the ethical and aesthetic components of sound, and why “noise” of many kinds is so central to scientific exploration and the human arts.

Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology, MIT

Brian Kane, Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Yale University
Alvin Lucier, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Wesleyan University
Josh McDermott, Assistant Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
Mara Mills, Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University
Alex Rehding, Fanny Peabody Professor of Music, Harvard University

Saturday, September 27, 2014 / 9:30 am–1:00 pm
Media Lab, MIT Building E14-674

Watch the speakers:
Part One
Part Two

People play on large inflated plastic structures.
Tomás Saraceno, On Space Time Foam, 2012. Credit: Alessandro Coco. Courtesy: Studio Tomás Saraceno.

Sensing – Actions

For many scientists, “sensing” is the final endpoint of numerous pathways of cognition; for philosophers, it has often been the first step in the process of reason itself. Current debates center on whether neuroscience can understand cognition if the subject is constituted through an ongoing negotiation with stimulus grasped by a moving and active body, in which one signal is constantly checked against another, rather than the long-cherished binaries of excitation/inhibition, push/pull, or on/off. In short, some theorists assert that much thinking goes on outside the skull. This session will explore the scientific and cultural basis for prodigious feats of muscle memory, bodily thinking, on-the-spot decision making, and human action.

Natasha Schüll, Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, MIT

Alva Noë, Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley
Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Associate Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies and of the History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University
Tomás Saraceno, CAST Visiting Artist
Leila Kinney, Executive Director of Arts Initiatives and the Center for Art, Science & Technology, MIT
Josh Tenenbaum, Professor of Computational Cognitive Science, MIT

Saturday, September 27, 2014 / 2:00–5:00 pm
Media Lab, MIT Building E14-674

Watch the speakers:
Part One
Part Two

A man plays double bass.
Arnold Dreyblatt, Di 18.03.2014, Berghain. Credit: Kai Bienert.

Evening Performance

Alvin Lucier, I Am Sitting in a Room, performed by Alvin Lucier
Alvin Lucier, In Memoriam Jon Higgins, performed by Evan Ziporyn
Arnold Dreyblatt, Turntable History, performed by Arnold Dreyblatt

Alvin Lucier, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Wesleyan University
Evan Ziporyn, Faculty Director and Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music, MIT
Arnold Dreyblatt, Professor of Media Art, Muthesius Academy of Art and Design

Note: the concert is at capacity, additional over-flow seating may be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Saturday, September 27, 2014 / 7:00 pm
Media Lab, MIT Building E14-674

Watch the performance:
Part One
Part Two

Tomás Saraceno, Social .. Quasi Social .. Solitary .. Spiders ... On Hybrid Cosmic Webs, detail, 2013. Credit: Studio Tomás Saraceno.
Tomás Saraceno, Social .. Quasi Social .. Solitary .. Spiders ... On Hybrid Cosmic Webs, detail, 2013. Credit: Studio Tomás Saraceno.

Reverberations: Spiders and Musical Webs

MIT Professor Markus Buehler and CAST Visiting Artist Tomás Saraceno discuss their research about materials and structures inspired by the intricate geometry of spiderwebs. Saraceno digitally captured a fully three dimensional spider web for the first time, which was later was scaled-up and reconstructed 16 times the web’s original size for the installation, 14 Billions (Working Title) 2010. Buehler’s lab has created a computer simulation of the data set generated by this project to reveal how the strands behave and interact in the web as a physical structure.

In this panel, Buehler will discuss the molecular structure of the proteins in spider’s silk and how art and engineering can function as mutually beneficial modes of discovery, as discussed in his recent book Biomateriomics, which emphasizes the universality of hierarchical structures in disparate systems as a mechanism to create tailored functions. Saraceno will envision a collaborative installation that would use a three dimensional spiderweb as an musical instrument to embody the incredible structural properties of spider’s silk.


John Ochsendorf, Class of 1942 Professor of Architecture and Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT

Tomás Saraceno, CAST Visiting Artist
Markus Buehler, Professor and Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT

Free admission and open to the public.


Thursday, September 25, 2014 / 7:00 pm
MIT Museum, MIT Building N51
265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA

A man poses behind a semi-transparent hanging image of classical arches.
Sergei Tcherepnin

Exhibition Tour – Sergei Tcherepnin

Explore the work of Boston-born artist Sergei Tcherepnin with a guided tour led by the staff of MIT’s List Visual Arts Center.

Sergei Tcherepnin composes multiple-channel sound pieces that are actualized through sculptural forms, things which exist simultaneously as speakers and instruments. He explores the capacity for visitors to affect and be affected by sound through their bodies as much as through their auditory systems, and his environments allow for sonic discords and dissonances as well as emergent unities that nevertheless support the heterogeneity of their components.
Free admission.

Friday, September 26, 2014 / 12:00 pm
List Visual Arts Center, MIT Building E15 Lobby
20 Ames Street, Cambridge MA