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Harries, Community Discuss Art Project

By Eric Richard
Associate News Editor

Time, space, and hacks were the central themes at last night's meeting between Cambridge artist Mags Harries, the Office of the Arts, and about 20 members of the MIT community to discuss proposals for the Student Center art project.

The meeting, the third in a series of four, was designed to be a brainstorming session for ideas for a piece of art, or a collection of pieces, which will be placed in the Student Center during the next academic year.

During the discussion, the idea of a "time" theme seemed to create the most excitement. Harries initially expressed an interest in dealing with time, saying that she had been attempting to read Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. "It might be a fun topic to deal with -- everybody's concept of time," she said.

Those in attendance seemed to enjoy the idea because they believed that time plays such a significant role in the lives of MIT students. Many suggested some sort of work which could act as a clock or that involved many clocks.

However, as Matthew K. Gray '95 said, "To be a clock doesn't mean that you can necessarily tell time from it, but that it changes with time."

Another student said, "There might be something oppressive about the linearity of time."

One suggestion was to create a wall of clocks representing each of the majors offered at MIT. "Students have a much greater identification with their course and the organizations they are in than their class," Gray said.

Ted E. Johnson, assistant director of the Campus Activities Complex, half-jokingly suggested "a hacker's wall of clocks" to which students could add their own clocks.

"That's part of the excitement -- to add on," Harries responded.

Still, not all those in attendance were wholly supportive of the idea. "There seems to be something clichd about the clock idea here," said Carlos Quintero '95. "It is just reinforcing what MIT is all about."

Other possible themes

Harries also suggested that the artwork complement the history of hacks at MIT. "I don't know how one makes art about hacks, but it is a tradition here that could be built upon. . . . There should be some place where they could be celebrated, nurtured, and reinforced."

Over the past month, Harries has also been trying to learn about Athena in an attempt to understand more about the MIT spirit. "The idea of Athena itself is interesting to me," Harries said. She likes the connections to women and reason that the name suggests.

Another theme which seemed appealing to Harries was the notion of building small, interconnected, maze-like rooms outside the building. Although her idea was not fully developed, she imagined "intimate rooms that you can be in and make your own space in."

Harries also hopes that through her project she will be able to "engage the students in giving something of themselves."

Catherine N. Stratton, wife of Julius A. Stratton '23, MIT's 11th president, said, "It is fun to have a contribution from all of the students. That way they are buying a part of the project."

The use of numbers as a theme met with support from the community but was opposed by Harries. "I always thought that it was oppressive to have numbers all over the place," Harries said.

Gray responded, "People at MIT are just more number-oriented. For them, it is much more efficient."

Michael H. Bloom, an operations and systems programmer, added, "It's a class of code that refers to things in the common experience, and excludes those that are not from MIT."

Future discussions

At the next meeting, to be held in February, Harries will present three or four concepts to the MIT community. In the interim, Harries will continue to explore different aspects of MIT life. She has already been working with members of the MIT community to learn more about Athena and hacking. In cooperation with the Office of the Arts, a discuss group has been set up on Athena to gather more student input on the project.

After the February meeting, Harries will produce visual models of these ideas for a meeting to be held in April. The artwork is tentatively scheduled to be installed in either August or September.