A display of light and sound will launch this week's festivities to honor the inauguration of Susan Hockfield, MIT's 16th president, and symbolize the inaugural theme, "Uncommon | In common."
"White Noise/White Light," designed by J. Meejin Yoon, assistant professor of architecture at MIT, will open in Kresge Oval on May 2 at 7 p.m. with comments by President Hockfield. "Uncommon" desserts--fried cheesecake, flavored creme brulees, napoleon station, and s'mores fondue--will be served.
Celebratory events throughout the week will include symposia on art and technology and on interdisciplinary research, a K-12 Educational Outreach Midway, a video retrospective of 2.007, MIT's famed robot design contest, and concerts by the MIT Symphony Orchestra and the MIT Concert Choir.
The inaugural ceremony will be held in Killian Court on Friday, May 6, at 2 p.m.
Originally commissioned by the city of Athens, Greece, and sited at the base of the Acropolis during the 2004 Olympics, "White Noise/White Light" is an installation comprised of a 50-by-50-foot grid of little rods that look neutral by day and magical by night, when they light up as people move among them.
Yoon, 32, conceived "White Noise/White Light" as a project at the intersection of "architecture, landscape architecture and environmental design" and an experience of theater in which participants of all ages become performers, she said.
"It's an uncommon experience and therefore suits the theme of the inaugural events. It can create a sense of play or a sense of solemnity, depending on the individual. But, more importantly, it is about engaging the multiple," Yoon said.
"White Noise/White Light" comes to life as participants walk among the fiber optic stalks, which react both by lighting up and by triggering a gentle murmur of white noise. Loudspeakers hidden beneath the "White Noise" floor provide the "whoosh" and "shhh" that add up, in Yoon's plan, to a "sonic refuge" from urban cacophony.
Each person's "journey" through the grid is unique: The light intensifies or wanes, the whooshings and shss-ings rise or fade depending upon whether the grid is traversed with care or klutzy abandon. During "White Noise/White Light's" 30-day stay in Athens, children particularly loved to play in the field, Yoon said.
But Yoon hopes that participants will go beyond the "singular" experience of her work and engage with her vision of cumulative and shared human experience--of all that we have in common.
By combining "white light, being a full spectrum of color, and white noise, being a full spectrum of frequencies within the range of human hearing, the design expresses the idea of accumulation, of the many in relation to the one," Yoon said.
"White Noise/White Light" is open to all ages, including children of any height. "It's a bit unfriendly to stiletto heels, because of the cracks in the wooden deck," Yoon noted.
The public is invited to view and walk through "White Noise/White Light" from dusk to 11 p.m. May 2 through May 7. Admission is free. From May 2-7, free evening parking will be available in MIT's West Garage Annex, 125 Vassar St., one block from the installation.
In addition to the outdoor installation of "White Noise/White Light," an exhibition of Yoon's works, titled "Rock, Paper, Scissors: Projects by MY Studio," will be on view at MIT's Wolk Gallery (Room 7-338, enter at 77 Massachusetts Ave.) through Sept. 16.
More 'Uncommon' events
â€¢ MIT has a tradition of reaching out to teachers and students across the country, and the K-12 Educational Outreach Midway will highlight 20 programs now developing innovative teaching methods or technologies on Wednesday, May 4, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Stata Center Student Street.
Participating programs include the Biology Department's High School Outreach, the Edgerton Center's You GO Girl, InvenTeams.
â€¢ Got a taste for bots? Inaugural week offers two views of MIT's famed robot-design world on Thursday, May 5. A video history of the mother of all robot contests, 2.007, will be presented in Room 10-250 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and an insider's view of a robotics classroom will be offered in Building 35-303 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 27, 2005 (download PDF).