The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 36.0°F | Partly Cloudy


‘Son et Lumiere’: Trading Spaces

Experience the World in a New Light

By Xian Ke

staff writer

Son et LumiÈre

Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Noon-6 p.m.; Friday, Noon-8 p.m. through April 4

List Visual Arts Center


L ights... Camera... Action!” One almost expects to hear those words upon entering the MIT List Visual Arts Center’s current exhibition. The title “Son et LumiÈre” evokes a post-war entertainment in Europe, whereby pre-programmed colored lights projected onto a building reveal a story of the structure. But lest you be mistaken, this exhibit is certainly no “Go Sox” on the Prudential Building. Rather, the level of ingenuity is closer to when MIT hackers turned the Green Building into the world’s largest sound meter one July 4 weekend.

Each of the six works combines vivid imagery and technical wizardry to stimulate the senses. The use of electronic components to create an experience is really the only thing that the four artists and two artist teams represented have in common. Yet, the aggregate result is surprisingly well-blended, as one exhibit segues into the next as in sequences of a dream or Hollywood picture. Unlike a stereotypical art show, visitors are immersed in the physical and emotional environment of each exhibit.

Located in an inconspicuous passageway off the entrance of the gallery is Michael Mittelman’s “Hallway,” seemingly right off of the set of a horror film. The dramatic effect is exacerbated by the innovative way in which the installation interacts with the visitors’ presence. What first appears to be an interesting gimmick of projecting likenesses onto a window and reverberating sound quickly instills surprise and even fear as the complexities of the mechanisms are uncovered.

These emotions carry onto the rest of exhibition, as one is tempted to discover hidden surprises behind the other works. Unfortunately, while the emotional impact of the other works is no less dramatic, the extent of interaction with the exhibits stops there.

Bruce Bemis’s “Bipolar Radiance” is a cleverly artistic use of an amateur figure skating film reel from 1951. The clicks of the film projector permeate the entire gallery, enhancing the surreal movie-set experience of the visit. The two spinning globes that reflect the colorful images and the visible gears that turn the reel make the production all the more intriguing.

The eerie room in Ann Lislegaard’s “Corner Piece -- The Space between Us” seems as if it could be located in the same haunted neighborhood as the “Hallway.” In this case, the fear arises from the words of the woman on the prerecorded soundtrack, who is obsessively watching and commenting on the actions of another woman, or herself.

Perhaps the most captivating work in the entire exhibition is a collaboration between a former Bell Labs statistician and a visual artist with a degree in computer science. “Listening Post” by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin has managed to reflect the human condition in their art in a most fascinating way -- by communicating near real-time commentary from the Internet. The work is visually impressive, as the unfiltered text is shown in various arrangements on an 11 by 21' matrix of LCD displays. The effect is at once overwhelming and insightful, disturbing and intriguing.

Jessica Rylan’s “The Voice of Theater,” located across the hall from the main gallery, and Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s “Traffic Patterns” round out the exhibit. Though both deliver on interesting concepts in creating an ambiance, they are the weakest among the various works.

So next time you have a break on campus, it is worth your while to pop by the List Visual Arts Center to see, hear, and experience the exhibits. The entrancing sounds and images might just cause you to be transported to a world without classes and deadlines.