2018-21 CAST Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist
Artistic explorations of existence and scale
Matthew Ritchie is a contemporary artist based in New York who works in installation, performance, painting, drawing, sculpture, and sound. Ritchie’s work addresses questions about the nature of the universe and our understanding of it, and asks what these enigmas might look like when manifested through artistic creation.
As the 2018–21 Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist at MIT, Matthew Ritchie has created a multi-part transmedia artwork, The Invisible College. The central theme, as is often the case in Ritchie’s work, is the emergence of hidden narratives from the specific informational qualities of the site. At MIT, The Invisible College was inspired by new developments in artificial intelligence, collaborations with a multidisciplinary team of MIT faculty and students, and Sir Francis Bacon’s 1626 unfinished utopian science-fiction story, New Atlantis, which proposed the first description of the scientific method, ultimately becoming the model for research institutions like MIT. What has emerged from that confluence of ideas is a recursive reflection on experimental inquiry, embodied in a science fiction detective story set in an evocative, almost mythological version of MIT.
The first part of The Invisible College manifested in early 2020 as a site specific performative VR game, House of Strangers, using Generative Adversarial Networks (StyleGAN and CycleGAN) and artificial intelligence (GPT-2) to generate imagery and content and featuring music by Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music at MIT. When the campus was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the VR game migrated across media to become a second work: Latent Island, that nested footage from the GANs and the VR game inside 360° video footage of the empty campus.
The third iteration of the project, Color Confinement, premiered as part of the CAST Unfolding Intelligence symposium. This even deeper recursion was also made without setting foot on the closed campus, using ‘actors’ derived from a video game engine. A richly textured mood piece, Color Confinement is a melancholy study of genre play, world building, and the physics of sight. Masked avatars representing the elementary colored quark and antiquark particles called ‘Red’, ‘Green’, and ‘Blue’, move in and out of other informational narratives within the film, accompanied by the haunting score by Evan Ziporyn and Shara Nova, a further collaboration within this recursive structure. As these mysterious figures roam the almost deserted MIT campus, their activities might be read both as a meditation on the role of the masked persona in gaming and popular culture, and as a response to the masked world that defined 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The final iteration, House of Illusion, features the avatars reenacting scenes from the film in a large-scale public augmented reality work; completing the cycle from site information to site specific game, then to informational film, and finally back to the original physical site.
The Invisible College: Color Confinement
“Unfolding Intelligence: The Art and Science of Contemporary Computation”
CAST Symposium, April 1–9, 2021 / Virtual
Free and open to the public
The Invisible College beta tests
January 28 and 29, 2020
An internal beta test of The Invisible College Virtual Reality experience, held on MIT campus
MET x Microsoft x MIT Prototype Reveal
February 4, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Avenue, New York City, NY
MET x Microsoft x MIT Hackathon
December 12 and 13, 2018
New England Research & Development (NERD) Center
1 Memorial Dr, Cambridge, MA
October 2–4, 2018
November 13–14, 2018
December 10–13, 2018
January 23–24, 2019
February 7–8, 2019
February 26–27, 2019
April 8–10, 2019
April 24–27, 2019
July 10–12, 2019
November 19–21, 2019
January 27–30, 2020
February 27-28, 2020
Caroline Jones, Professor of History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art
Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music
Peter Fisher, Professor and Department Head, Physics
Markus Buehler, Jerry McAfee (1940) Professor and Department Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Sarah Schwettmann, PhD Student, Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Sarah Wolozin, Director, MIT Open Documentary Lab
Matthew Ritchie was born in London, England, in 1964, and lives and works in New York. He received a BFA from Camberwell School of Art, London, and attended Boston University. His artistic mission has been no less ambitious than questioning the various systems we use to represent and visualize the universe and the relationships between the structures of knowledge and belief that we use to understand it.
Matthew Ritchieʼs installations integrating painting, wall drawings, light boxes, performance, sculpture and moving image are investigations into the complex and transient nature of information. His works describe generations of systems, ideas and their subsequent interpretations in a kind of cerebral web, concretizing ephemeral and intangible theories of information and time. Ritchie has engaged in many cross-disciplinary collaborations, extending his own projects to explore the possibility of shared systems and aggregations in contexts as diverse as opera, contemporary music, architecture, horticulture, urban design, theology and science.
Ritchie has had over twenty-five solo exhibitions throughout his career. Ritchie’s work has been exhibited at the Dallas Museum of Art; the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami; MASS MoCA; the SFMoMA; The Guggenheim and the MoMA, among others. Ritchie has also been involved in over 100 group exhibitions since 1990 at an international level.
Ritchie’s previous work at MIT includes Games of Chance and Skill (2002), a public art installation in the MIT Zesiger Center; Darkness Visible (2009), a performance with Bryce Dessner at the Broad Institute (which developed into a multi-year collaboration with Dessner and Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music Evan Ziporyn at MIT, including The Morning Line, ZKM Karlsruhe), and The Long Count / The Long Game (2015), a multimedia performance at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston featuring MIT faculty and alumni.
More at the artist’s website: Matthew Ritchie
“The portfolio of prototypes, all in various stages of development, offer tantalizing hints as to how AI could transform and shape interactions between viewers and art.”
– Artnet News, February 2019
“Artist Matthew Ritchie…reflect[s] on the ephemeral nature of information through a series of paintings, moving images, sculptures and sounds.”
— VICE , September 2014
“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”
— The New Yorker, September 2022
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Scenes from a Salon on Artificial Intelligence