4.373 / 4.374
Advanced Projects in Visual Arts — MIT Island: an Architectural Wet Lab

In the early 1970s, the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT conducted exploratory research on the possibility of a river-bound facility for riparian cultural production. None of their proposals were ever realized.

Today, ACT is proposing a new facility—the ACT Island—to function as the basecamp for a new research cluster aimed at developing creative solutions to our varied and pressurizing water problems and our troubling disconnection from water supplies and the fragile sites, territories, and ecosystems they support. We are arguing that in order to cultivate new forms of knowledge and perception, tools and interfaces—the seeds of a new form of environment citizenship—we require new prototyping venues, new performance labs, that put us in closer touch with the media and environments we wish to better understand and inhabit.

Inspired by the discussion on systemic aesthetics, collective intelligence and plural ecology, we envision the facility as a set of environments, chambers, and portals (e.g. steam room, mud cave, aquatheatre, tub) for testing prototypes technologies and materials before they are deployed in situ. In addition to basic research, the Island is also intended to host creative performances, materials exploration, play-based research, and radical pedagogy. In short, ACT Island is envisioned as a beacon of art, culture, and technology in, by, and for the water.

What would it take to build such an island? A collaboration between designers, planners, scientists, and engineers, with art and culture as the catalyst. Participants will design island-based interventions to be launched on the Charles River in May, 2016, in conjunction with MIT’s Centennial celebration. The raft provided at the MIT sailing pavilion will act as our Island: the MIT Island, a heterotopic space of speculation and celebration and focal point for participant projects.

Readings will be assigned to support the development of individual and collective projects. Mondays 9:30 AM–12:30 PM will serve as lab and workshop time and Mondays 7:00 PM–9:00 PM will typically be programmed with visits from contemporary artists, curators, and scientists, in-class presentations, and reading discussions.

UG: Register for 4.373
G: Register for 4.374

Prerequisite: 4.301, 4.302, or permission of instructor
Enrollment: Limited to 20