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SEAt

By Michelle Povinelli

Staff Writer

A curious addition to Lobby 10 appeared last week: two chairs, facing one another and melded into a metal helix structure. Overhead, a noisemaker created soothing, swooshing sounds as the chairs rocked. The installation, called SEAt, was created by MIT Artist in Residence Diane Willow with input from Lee Knight ’00.

“I wanted to create an experience to alleviate stress, especially during exam time,” said Willow. “You would have to use your body, create a rhythm to create a contemplative experience. And the seats are broad enough that if you don’t know someone, you still feel comfortable.”

Response to SEAt was quite positive, as seen from the entries in SEAt’s guest book. “They should be all over campus!” remarked one visitor, and another, “Sure beats those dull booths we usually have in Lobby 10.” One entry bragged, “We fit 11 people on this thing! So much fun!”

However, not all were content to sit and contemplate. “After playing with it for a while, I wanted to know how far it would turn before it stopped,” said one person, and “I was afraid to really see if I could rock it into flipping it over ... have you tried?” Someone apparently did as SEAt met an untimely demise late Wednesday when it was flipped upside down, damaging the noisemaker. It will be relocated to La Sala de Puerto Rico as part of Tech Reunion activities.

The Artist in Residence program sponsors 12 to 24 artists each year, each of whom works with a department or departments within the Institute. Willow is co-sponsored by Mitchel Resnick, professor of Media Arts and Science, and Martha Gray, co-director of the Health Sciences and Technology Program. Resnick has collaborated with Willow on children’s education projects which mix art with technology. For example, a girl in an after-school program “built a birdfeeder with a sensor and a motor. When a bird came to eat, it would take a picture,” said Resnick. Willow is collaborating with members of HST to develop interactive media projects for use in pediatric medicine.

In line with current campus trends, several visitors seemed intrigued with the marketing possibilities of SEAt. Said one, “If you mass produce, put it on the Internet,” and another simply stated, “How much do you want for it.” Willow is, in fact, looking into the possibility of patenting the design.

SEAt may be loaned out to departments with space to give it a temporary home. Those interested should contact Maureen Costello at x3-4004.