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Awkwardly Mobile: Meet the New Ambulatory ArtCube

Lorrie LeJeune

For a few years now, I’ve walked the halls of the Media Lab. Remaining in my mental refrain is something Peggy Guggenheim wrote of her museum in Venice, Italy: art should be accessible to all. An avid art collector, she strongly believed in bringing the art out of the frame, off the white walls, and to the people.

Regardless of a quasi-fishbowl aesthetic, there is still a sense of ramparts and walls here in E14 and E15. Students, faculty, and staff of all departments—from the Media Lab to CMS to CBA to ACT—are often sequestered behind doors and floors. Arguably, this siloed environment can facilitate rigorous study, but I—and almost everyone I speak with—want to collaborate more, and without the pressures of degree requirements, daily tasks, Github issues, and office hours. Certainly, this is the reason for our Media Lab All-Lab Lunches, Friday teas, outings, and summer gatherings. However, few of our broader connections and collaborations are visible in our physical spaces. There is also very, very little visible art given the number of artistically inclined folks we have around here, which is ironic given that our physical space houses two academic programs with Art in their titles: Media Arts and Sciences and Art, Culture and Technology.

Being in the Media Lab’s Civic Media group, we want to offer an additional construct. Using technology to effect social change—including change here at the Media Lab—we ask how we may encourage a blend of art and art/tech collaboration that goes beyond not only school and work responsibilities, but departments as well. ACT and CMS share our physical space but we may not have much opportunity for collaboration. As we know from our "maker" classes and workshops, different capabilities and approaches can yield remarkable projects. Let’s facilitate a "smart" building that is at least as much about the people as the tech.

Because the walls and halls of E14 and E15 are subject to building codes and approvals, we decided to create our own walls that can contain and display, conceal or reveal, and in the true MIT innovative spirit, move. As a result, our ArtCube was born. Once we gather the remaining materials to finish construction, we will open for submissions (beginning of 2019).

Going forward, there are only a few requirements needed to book time on this meandering media redux:

  1. Your art/tech proposal must in some way involve people outside of your lab, office, or department. For example, Civic Media will christen the ArtCube in January with You: Plural, a photographic exhibit by Lorrie LeJeune and curated with yours truly, Cindy Bishop. The exhibit will feature a series of portraits that explore the nodes of connection within spaces and communities such as those in E14 and E15 including the Media Lab, CMS, ACT, and CBA. At some point during the exhibit the ArtCube is likely to wander the halls looking to gather more portraits and connections. Submit ideas to artcube@media.mit.edu.
  2. Projects should not be tied to school or daily work responsibilities. The ArtCube is about creativity, connection, and having fun!
  3. Work displayed on or in The Cube must be polished and complete enough to feel like part of an exhibit.
  4. The handling, presentation, and content of ArtCube should be respectful and aligned with Institute policies to foster a respectful, welcoming, and productive community free from harassment.
  5. For the initial few rounds, Civic Media members will assume curatorial responsibility, although the idea is for each submission to self-curate.
  6. Should we in Civic Media find ourselves a year from now with a very well—if not overly—subscribed ArtCube, we may ask the community to vote for the most funny, most clever, most provocative, or weirdest installations, and we may award a prize.

We are happy to have your suggestions/comments!

You can reach us both (Cindy and Lorrie) at artcube@media.mit.edu.

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Cindy Bishop is a front-end developer on the Media Cloud project and a member of the MIT Center for Civic Media.

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