Brazilian installation artist Ana Maria Tavares will be the 2007 Ida Ely Rubin Artist-in-Residence at MIT, visiting the campus from Nov. 12 to Nov. 17, and from March 2 to March 15.
Tavares will present a public program titled, "Suspension, Mobility, Displacements and Rotations: Art and Architecture as Still Life" at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Broad Institute Auditorium (NE30, 7 Cambridge Center).
Tavares' work stands at the crossroads of sculpture and urban design. She is known internationally for her imaginative, often disorienting use of prosaic urban materials such as steel, glass and mirrors in structures that resemble street furniture or architectural fittings. Often, these invented structures form puzzles or mazes for the visitor to explore.
Born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 1958, Tavares currently works and lives in SÃ£o Paulo. She describes her artistic themes as urban architectural grammar and the dislocations implicit in modern mobility.
"I'm very interested in the idea of passage of nonpermanence; in other words, in the way we live our lives today. We are surrounded by places of passage, places that are nonplaces: shopping malls, bus stations, toll booths. We are bombarded by appeals to us and by excess," she said.
Airports and departure lounges are a recurrent theme in her work--places that symbolize exit from everyday life, getting ready to depart, floating, meditating and the overlap of the real and the virtual.
Two of Tavares' works show how the artist transforms real sites into installations that convey the weirdness of, well, real sites. Two recent works illustrate this: "Strategies for Enchantment" (2001), in which she placed a piano, mirror and seats in a glass-walled room, and "Middelburg Airport Lounge with Parede Niemeyer" (2001), in which she used mirrors and video projection to transform De Vleeshal in the Netherlands into a futuristic airport lounge.
"Arte/Cidade: SÃ£o Paolo" (2002) is one of Tavares' most ambitious projects. Part group exhibition, part political and social manifesto, it features numerous site-specific artworks scattered throughout the desperately poor east side of the city.
"Labirinto," a dramatic work in a former textile factory that hosted the main part of the exhibition, is one segment of "Arte/Cidade." "Labirinto" comprised a network of walkways and spiral staircases that passed through floors and ceilings, connecting different areas and three different levels of the building. The structure functioned as a device that offered a radically different way of navigating the building, mixing surprise and entrapment in the visitor's experience.
Tavares attained an M.F.A. degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Ph.D. from the University of SÃ£o Paulo. In 2001, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Grant.
The Ida Ely Rubin Artists-in-Residence Fund was established in 1998 by MIT benefactor Margaret McDermott in honor of art historian, arts consultant and author Ida Ely Rubin, a founding member of MIT's Council for the Arts and former president of the Americas Foundation. The fund supports artists-in-residence programs in the visual arts at MIT.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 7, 2007 (download PDF).