“You would not believe your eyes / If ten million fireflies / Lit up the world as I fell asleep.”
But now you can believe when dozens of butterflies light up the way as you walk through the corridor between the Hayden and Lewis libraries. The butterflies, made from copies of MIT’s multifarious library pages, hang from the ceiling of the hallway and each carry a small light. When someone approaches from either side of the hallway, some of the butterflies light up the way, as if providing directions.
Then there are the shimmering lights suspended in the arch under the Green Building. They are, in fact, minuscule turbines that use wind energy to illuminate themselves. As the winds change, so does the brightness of the curtain, creating a striking gleam. MIT feels like an illuminated fairyland, where technological and artistic genius make magic happen.
The artwork adorning campus are part of a wider celebration of arts and creativity at MIT. Called the Festival of Art, Science, and Technology (FAST) and directed by Professor of Music and Media Tod Machover, this prominent MIT150 event also includes musical performances, exhibitions, discussion forums, and showcases of neuroscience research on the brain’s musical and artistic capabilities. Continuing throughout the spring semester, this festival is a demonstration of the beauty that can be presented by a blend of art and technology. The series of installations is the brainchild of a team from the School of Architecture and Planing comprised of Dean Adèle N. Santos; Professors J. Meejin Yoon and Machover; MIT Director of Arts Initiatives Leila W. Kinney; and Meg Rotzel from the Office of the Arts.
In celebration of the connection and cooperation that MIT fosters, Course IV graduate students Craig A. Boney, James R. Coleman, and Andrew J. Manto pooled their ingenuity to build an airy tunnel named Dis(Course)4 connecting the floors of the Building 3 stairwell off the Infinite Corridor. Many thin aluminum sheets were cut by a water jet and are held together by thousands of zip ties to give this tunnel the look of a paper lantern. Though the piece looks light, it has a steel heart comprised of steel cables running along diagonals to make it strong.
Another passageway, joining Buildings 56 and 66, takes us to the world of Gothic cathedrals. With a multitude of curved vaults, voltaDom allows fascinatingly intermingles space and light, depicting the freedom that MIT offers its community to think beyond the shell, as it were. Also to acknowledge this free spirit, architecture graduate students Yuna Kim, Kelly E. Shaw, and Travis A. Williams built String Tunnel from nylon, found under the Dreyfus Building Bridge. It shows the path from Kendall Square to the Infinite.
In May, FAST picked up the pace. Chroma District features rows of lanterns which react to movement and sound from passersby. And in the Infinite Corridor’s green lounge, a cybernetic loop named Maxwell’s Dream lets observers “paint” with magnetic fields. The Infinite Time Capsule, installed on the fourth floor of the School of Architecture and Planning and the fifth floor of the Media Lab, captures and stores photos of previous visitors and combines them with real-time photos to create a fluid sense of time.
Installed between March and April, the Media Lab’s barometer for happiness, the Mood Meter, might answer questions like, “Do midterms lower MIT’s mood?”
On Saturday, FAST Light brought a riot of colors and light all around campus and to the Charles riverfront, commemorating the end of the semester-long arts festival. In the evening, two enormous inflatable stars were raised over Killian Court; 90 brightly glowing orbs floated on the Charles and changed colors in response to observers; a dynamic and interactive LED array lit up the Harvard bridge; and a floating inflatable screen on the Charles called the Liquid Archive displayed MIT’s history of science and the arts.
With all these colorful displays of lights, MIT soared high as the Institute finished another portion of its sesquicentennial celebration. Happy 150th birthday, MIT!