Vik Muniz

2012-13 CAST Visiting Artist

Vik Muniz Sand Castle. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist.
Visiting artist Vik Muniz with PhD candidate in the Fluid Interfaces Group Marcelo Coelho. Photo: L. Barry Hetherington.
Vik Muniz at MIT. Photo: L. Barry Hetherington.

"an art world fixture for more than a decade"
The New York Times

Vik Muniz at MIT. Photo: L. Barry Hetherington.
Vik Muniz, Footstep, Pictures of Earthworks, 2005. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Shifts in scale, photographic manipulation, and unexpected materials

About the Residency

At MIT, artist Vik Muniz has pursued his interests in image production and visual literacy working with researchers in biology, optics, and engineering.

In collaboration with Marcelo Coelho, a PhD candidate in the Fluid Interfaces Group, and Rehmi Post, a Visiting Scientist at the Center for Bits and Atoms, Muniz developed a process to machine microscopic images onto millimeter-wide grains of sand. The images were later transformed into large, high-resolution prints.

With Tal Danino, a Postdoctoral Associate in Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia’s lab at the Koch Institute for Integrated Cancer Research, Muniz used bacteria, cancer and liver cells as the medium for a series of patterns and portraits. They used the bacteria as “paint” in much the same way that stencils or silk-screens are made. Muniz and Danino hope these images will increase awareness of the importance of microscopic organisms, which are vital to life and also can be designed to diagnose and treat disease.

Presented by MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and the MIT Media Lab.


Past Events

Artist Presentation: Vik Muniz, Visiting Artist
October 3, 2012

MIT Visiting Artist Vik Muniz presents a selection of projects relevant to his residency at MIT, providing a rare opportunity to learn what an artist sees “behind the curtain of science.”

Film Screening: Waste Land
October 2, 2012

Filmed over nearly three years, the Academy Award-nominated film Waste Land follows MIT Visiting Artist Vik Muniz from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There, he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they re-create photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to reimagine their lives. Director Lucy Walker and Co-Directors João Jardim and Karen Harley offer stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.

Learn more about the film.

Class Visits

October 1, 2012

Fab Lab
October 4, 2012 and February 27, 2013

Exploratory Research

Lunch Symposium on Imaging and Visual Literacy
October 1, 2012

High-Low Tech, MIT Media Lab
October 2, 2012

Fluid Interfaces, MIT Media Lab
October 2, 2012

Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT
October 2, 2012 and February 26-27, 2013

Camera Culture, MIT Media Lab
October 2, 2012

Tangible Media Group, MIT Media Lab
October 3, 2012

City Design and Development Group and SENSEable City Lab, Department of Urban Studies and Planning
October 3, 2012

MIT Center for Bits and Atoms
October 4, 2012

Department of Materials Science and Engineering
February 26, 2013

Collaborators at MIT

Marcelo Coelho, PhD candidate, Fluid Interfaces Group, MIT Media Lab; principal collaborator on the Sand Castles project

Tal Danino, Postdoctoral Researcher, Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies, Sangeeta N. Bhatia, Director; principal collaborator on the Bacteria project

Neil Gershenfeld, Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Director, MIT Center for Bits and Atoms

Patricia Maes, Alexander W. Dreyfoos Professor of Media Technology and Associate Program Head, Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Lab

Libby McDonald, Program Director, Global Sustainability Partnerships, MIT Co-Lab, Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Jennifer Jacobs, PhD Candidate, Research Assistant, High-Low Tech, MIT Media Lab

Steven Keating, PhD Candidate, Research Assistant, Mediated Matter, MIT Media Lab

Natalie H. Kuldell, Instructor of Biological Engineering, Department of Biological Engineering

David Robert, S.M. Candidate, Research Assistant, Personal Robots, MIT Media Lab

Eric Rosenbaum, PhD Candidate, Research Assistant, Lifelong Kindergarten, MIT Media Lab


Brazilian artist Vik Muniz radically transforms our understanding of image-making by using shifts in scale, photographic manipulation and unexpected materials—from dust and chocolate to grains of sand and industrial garbage—to explore the nature of visual cognition.

Vik Muniz is known for his deep exploration of visual perception and reproductive technologies, informed by the history of science and art, as well as for the extraordinary documentary about his work with the garbage pickers of Rio de Janeiro, Waste Land.

More at the artist’s website: Vik Muniz.