Cambridge--On Monday, May 6, for one day only, the American pastoral ideal will come to life at MIT as one of the Institute's most prominent and well-traveled lobbies is transformed into a 60 x 60-foot wheatfield.
The art project, entitled "The Garden in the Machine," will consist of 58,500 stalks of wheat "planted" in insulation panels and covering the floor of MIT's Lobby 7 as a symbolic representation of the American pastoral ideal, literally growing out of the world of urban technology.
Located just inside the main entrance to MIT at 77 Massachusetts Ave. from 9am to 5pm, the installation will be open to the public, who may walk "through" the three-foot-high grasses via two eight-foot-wide pathways. The wheatfield may also be viewed and photographed from second and third floor balconies overlooking this well-known entrance hall--the site of numerous arrivals and departures, concerts, demonstrations, announcements, and MIT "hacks" over the years.
The installation is the brainchild of Scott Raphael Schiamberg, a graduate student at MIT in both the Department of Architecture and Department of Urban Studies and Planning, who was influenced by a long-standing fascination with the pastoral ideal and its influence on the American character, particularly the relationship between "American pastoralism" and the evolution of American urban development. Quotations by Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Jefferson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne depicting the American landscape as a sanitary, soothing, and healing force will be mounted and hung in the lobby over the wheatfield.
To assist with the installation, Schiamberg--a native of Iowa and a baseball fan who played the sport for MIT as an undergraduate--has recruited 16 members of MIT's current Varsity Baseball Team. Their work will involve hand-placing the individual stalks of wheat, one by one, into 75 4 ft. x 8 ft. insulation panels, and positioning the panels side-by-side on the lobby floor.
The title of the installation, "The Garden in the Machine," was derived from the seminal book The Machine in the Garden by Leo Marx, Professor Emeritus at MIT in the Program in Science, Technology and Society, whose subject, "The Representation of Nature in America," was an inspiration for Schiamberg's ideas.