Digital archive showcases work from the Center for Advanced Visual Studies

The collection features groundbreaking projects from pioneers working at the intersection of art, science, and technology.

In 1967, the newly established MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS), founded by professor György Kepes and conceived as a fellowship program for artists, welcomed its first three fellows. Pioneering work at the intersection of art, science, and technology quickly got underway, and in the following decades, more than 200 fellows arrived to participate in this globally influential program, along with researchers and graduate students.

Now, as part of a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of CAVS, a new interactive digital archive is offering public access to experimental work created by the fellows, including world-renowned artists such as Otto Piene, Aldo Tambellini, Yvonne Rainer, Nam June Paik, Muriel Cooper, and Stan VanDerBeek.

The digital archive was launched thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the digitization and online presentation of the CAVS Special Collection, long held as slides and other original documentation at the Program for Art, Culture and Technology (ACT). ACT was formed in 2009 out of the merger of CAVS and MIT’s Visual Arts Program.  

“Fifty years ago, the founding of CAVS showed remarkable conviction and foresight,” says former ACT director and Associate Professor Gediminas Urbonas. “But what is even more remarkable is how the work and ideas that the CAVS fellows’ initiative produced are still relevant to our present world. We are living in the future that they imagined. And that work can help us address many of the crises that have and will emerge.”

The landing page of the site introduces users to an experimental, randomized three-dimensional environment of collection materials, which can be clicked through to view metadata (such as dates, locations, and descriptions) for each item. This feature allows users to experience a serendipitous visualization of the collection, encountering new materials at every turn. The design was inspired by the work of Muriel Cooper, a CAVS fellow, founding faculty member of the MIT Media Lab, and the first design director of the MIT Press.

Read the full story on MIT News, February 22, 2018.