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MIT artists enliven cyberfest with technology/art interactions

Professor Tod Machover, whose compositions will be performed as part of the Cyberarts Festival, tests his hypercello.
Professor Tod Machover, whose compositions will be performed as part of the Cyberarts Festival, tests his hypercello.
Photo courtesy / MIT Media Lab

When the spotlight shines on creative connections between the worlds of art and technology, you're sure to find MIT representation. Presenting work ranging from hyperstrings to humanoid sculptures, more than 20 MIT faculty, student and alumni artists who use computer technology as an integral part of their work are contributing to the 2001 Boston Cyberarts Festival. The event runs from April 21-May 6 at locations in and around the Boston area, and at

"MIT is the engine that drives cyberarts in Boston," said George Fifield, festival director. "It's a place where art and technology interact in fascinating ways, and MIT contributions are some of the most compelling of this year's festival."

MIT highlights of the festival include a performance of Tod Machover's Hyperstring Trilogy; Glorianna Davenport's exhibition, Flights of Fantasy at the DeCordova Museum; and digital installations at MIT's List Visual Arts Center. The April 27-29 "Race in Digital Space" conference at MIT, which examines race and technology in the digital age, is also part of the festival.


Flights of Fantasy at the DeCordova Museum, created by researchers at the Media Lab, is a collaborative work by storytellers and researchers inspired by the comings and goings in urban parks. Directed by principal research associate Glorianna Davenport and graduate students Barbara Barry, Win Burleson, Aisling Kelliher, Nyssim Lefford, Ali Mazalek, Paul Nemirovsky and James Seo, Flights of Fantasy invites visitors to create and discover story messages.

As visitors construct paths through a database of story fragments using the large game board in the museum or via a remote interface on the web, other museum-goers release story potential and receive story mementos as they move through a forest of bird cages in a landscape of sound. The work is part of a continuing exploration into a pervasive, personal and poetic future cinema which reaches out as if in conversation with its audience. A reception and artist talk will be held Thursday, April 19 at 7pm at the DeCordova (51 Sandy Pond Rd. in Lincoln). Flights of Fantasy is on view through May 28.

Professor Tod Machover's Hyperstring Trilogy will be performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) with "hypersoloists" Matt Haimovitz, Kim Kaskashian and Ani Kavafian on Sunday, May 6 at 8pm at Boston University's Tsai Center.

Professor Machover's team at the Media Lab designed special string hyperinstruments to measure performance nuance and expressiveness. The players' movements and the instruments' sounds and vibrations are analyzed; the result allows the hyperstring to blossom, all under the artist's control. In a 1997 review of the piece, Boston Globe music critic Richard Dyer called the hyperviolin "an instrument extended in volume, coloristic range, and harmonic possibility by immediate computer response."

A limited number of free tickets will be available to members of the MIT community (two per ID) in the Office of the Arts starting Tuesday, April 24.

Professor Machover's Forever and Ever, part of the Hyperstring Trilogy, will also be performed as part of a festival concert entitled "Orchestral Music at the Technological Frontier" on May 3 at 8pm in Symphony Hall. Forever and Ever is one of his most sophisticated hyperinstrument pieces and has been called "as exciting as rock and as solid as the foundation of a baroque church, [creating] an aura that expands to become a whole pulsating galaxy," according to the Boston Globe.

The List Visual Arts Center's four installations, which open with a reception on Thursday, April 26 from 5:30-7:30pm, are by artists who use digital technologies to explore themes such as race, sexuality, media and the social effects of new technologies.

Isaac Julien's The Long Road to Mazatlan is a three-screen telling of a modern cowboy tale created in collaboration with Venezuelan-born choreographer Javier De Frutos. Paul Pfeiffer's The Long Count (The Rumble in the Jungle), is the second of three works in which the artist has painstakingly shown Muhammad Ali outside the boxer's most famous bouts. Johan Grimonprez's Inflight is a spinoff of airline magazines; and Race In Digital Space, presented in conjunction with the conference of the same name, features the work of more than 30 artists using film, video, new media and web techniques, including Come by Kevin Choi, a senior in managemennt. (See Arts Calendar below for List Center information).

Festival-goers can obtain a catalog of all the exhibitions and events in the April 20 issue of the Boston Phoenix, at CyberArtCentral, (at the Boston Architectural Center on 320 Newbury St. in Boston) and at participating venues. CyberPasses, which can be used for discounted admissions to events, can be purchased at CyberArt-Central. For more information, see the festival web site.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 11, 2001.

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