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Festival showcases MIT cyberartists

From behind-the-scenes planning to onstage performances, members of the extended MIT community are playing a significant role in the Boston Cyberarts Festival, running through May 16.

The first of its kind in the nation, the festival aims to "gather artists and high-techology professionals from New England and throughout the world who are using computers to advance the digital and performing arts and to create new interactive worlds." It features more than 100 events at more than 60 locations in and around Boston, across Massachusetts and on the web.

As a sponsor of the festival, MIT joins more than 50 arts organizations involved in the project, and a number of MIT alumni/ae, students, staff and affiliates are among the participants.

Media Lab graduate student Maggie Orth, active in planning and fundraising for the festival, believes it has "great potential to be a terrific national event." Partly as a result of greater availability, increased speed and reduced costs of microprocessors and the "stuff" of computers, she says, the field of "cyberarts" -- defined by the festival as "any artistic endeavor in which computer technology is used to expand the artistic possibilities" -- is growing rapidly.

Teresa Marrin, also a graduate student in the Media Lab, shares Ms. Orth's enthusiasm for the festival, saying that it has "performed the amazing feat of uniting many of the most prominent artists in Boston into one task and connecting us with others who do similar things in disparate places and institutions all over the city." Ms. Marrin, who served on the festival's music subcommittee, put together COAXIAL, a marathon experimental electronic music event taking place at The Middle East on May 8-9 (see below).


But MIT involvement in the Cyberarts Festival goes beyond the Media Lab, and represents the widespread nature of the arts at the Institute. Here are some of the festival exhibitions, events and projects in which MIT affiliates have been and will be involved:


The List Visual Arts Center's exhibition, Eve Andr�e Laram�e: A Permutational Unfolding, organized by Assistant Curator Jennifer Riddell, explores the history of digital technology and its relationship to the history of textiles and weaving.

MIT graduates Jennifer Hall (SM 1986), Marc Locascio (SM 1987), Karl Sims (SB 1984; SM) and Chris Dodge (SM 1997) have put together a group show titled Make Your Move: Interactive Computer Art at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln. Presented through May 31, the show features three computer-assisted interactive installations in which visitors create the aesthetic and philosophical experience.

Mr. Sims's contribution, Galapagos, a project about Darwinian evolution, earned him the title "the wizard of virtual evolution" by the Boston Globe's Patti Hartigan as well as a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant last year.

Media Lab graduate student Jocelyn Scheirer's digital artwork is on view as part of Soul of the Machine: Explorations in Digital Media at the Bromfield Gallery (560 Harrison Ave., Boston) through May 22. "Artists in Conversation," a gallery talk with the participating artists, will take place Saturday, May 8 from 3-4pm followed by a reception from 4-6pm.

Jim Bredt (SB 1982, SM, PhD) and MIT affiliate Tim Anderson are among the eight pioneering artists from the US and Europe who produce real sculptural objects directly from 3-D computer designs represented in Mind Into Matter: New Digital Sculpture, an exhibition at the Computer Museum through May 15.

Artist-in-Residence Arthur Ganson is one of six East Coast artists represented in the exhibition Popular Science at the BCA Mills Gallery (539 Tremont St., Boston) through June 20. The works in the show, crafted from recycled technology, seek to strike a balance between technology, contemporary concerns in art-making and personal expression.


COAXIAL (May 8-9, The Middle East, 472-480 Massachusetts Ave.), includes performances by students and affiliates from the Media Lab (May 9, 10pm-1am, suggested donation $5). Performers include Ms. Marrin, demonstrating her "wearable musical instrument" made famous last spring when worn by Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart; graduate student Peter Rice, an independent artist and software programmer; graduate students Benjamin Vigoda and Jonathan Feldman and their band The Golden Age; graduate students Stefan Agamanolis, Freedom Baird and Alex Westner's electronic audiovisual performance trio Liv�sexact, and former visiting Media Lab researcher W. Andrew Schloss, a percussionist and radio drum performer.

The Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College's Women in Technology and the Arts series, put together as part of the Cyberarts Festival, features talks by several with MIT connections. Ms. Marrin spoke yesterday (May 4) on her work with hyperinstruments; installation artist Diane Willow, who will be artist-in-residence at MIT starting next fall, is the presenter on Monday, May 10; scientific photographer Felice Frankel, who has been a research scientist and artist-in-residence at the Edgerton Center since 1994, will lecture on Tuesday, May 11; and Harriet Casdin-Silver, holographic pioneer and former fellow in the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, will speak on Thursday, May 13. The talks are from 7-9pm at the Bunting Institute at 34 Concord Ave., Cambridge.

Julia Scher, lecturer in the Department of Architecture's Visual Arts Program, literally lent her voice to the festival. According to festival director George Fifield, she recorded a "series of phrases about the festival to be played on the website and at the headquarters [at the Computer Museum]... talking about various aspects of the festival."

Catalogs and information are available at CyberArt Central in Boston's Computer Museum (Tuesday through Sunday, 10am-5pm). Many events are free; $5 Cyberpasses provide a discount on events with admission fees. Call 524-5084 or visit the CyberArts Festival web site.

A version of this article appeared in the May 5, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 29).

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