Good art can be both timely and timeless. It can be rooted in a particular event or place and at the same time speak to audiences across oceans and eras and ideologies. Good artists distill their personal experience and vision into a language almost anyone can access.
The three MIT graduate student artists selected for the 2022 Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts work in a variety of media and explore a broad range of themes. All of them found the support and freedom to develop their work at MIT.
Students submit a body of work to be considered for the Schnitzer Prize, which was established in 1996. The Schnitzer Prize awards $5,000 to each graduate student winner. Recipients of the 2022 Schnitzer Prize will display their work in a Wiesner Student Art Gallery show this May.
“Working across geographies, disciplines, and materials, the artistic practices of these three artists demonstrate the diversity of creative work taking place at the Institute at the highest levels,” says Andrea Volpe, Director of the Council for the Arts at MIT (CAMIT). “What unites their practices is their commitment to crossing boundaries and disciplines. Whether achieved through juxtaposition or synthesis, this is the signature of the arts as they are practiced at MIT.”
It All Started With Gaga
The first time Irmandy Wicaksono, PhD ’23 Media Arts and Sciences, realized that an electrical engineer could find a place in the arts and design was when he helped design two dresses for Lady Gaga. “I was an undergraduate engineering student in England and had just landed a one-month internship with StudioXO in London,” says the Indonesian engineer and artist. “I took part in the development of two mechatronic dresses for Lady Gaga to wear at the iTunes festival in London and to show at the ArtRave event in Brooklyn.
Wicaksono works in smart textiles and wearable technology with applications ranging from health and well-being to musical controllers and interactive dance. Tapis Magique (The Magic Carpet) is a large-scale knitted electronic textile carpet that senses the pressure of human steps and posture and transforms that pressure into sound to bridge the physical with the digital. Created during the pandemic in collaboration with synth artist Don Derek Haddad and dancer Loni Landon—the three worked on the project six feet apart in a sixth-floor Media Lab room—Tapis Magique won the Student Innovation Award at the 2022 South By Southwest Festival (SXSW). “I hope that my textile interfaces immerse the users in this unique synesthetic experience without fully transporting them into the digital world,” says Wicaksono.
Wicaksono’s ties to textiles are both cultural and personal. Indonesia has a rich textile tradition, with regional patterns as in Batik, Ikat, and Songket. As a boy, he watched his grandmother work her enormous home looms, and still remembers the sounds they made. “Textiles and electronics share many processes,” says Wicaksono, who hopes one day to run a design studio working at the intersection of art, science, and technology. “We draw electric wires the same way we draw thread. We print electronic circuit boards in almost the same way we print batik. I’d like to continue to make these connections, between traditional practices in my country and the things I’ve learned abroad.”
Written by Ken Shulman