From the upcoming Zero1 Biennial in Silicon Valley to the buzz over London's “New Aesthetic” movement, there's no end to the buzz around art and technology these days. Yet for all the splash that these newcomers are making, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been there the whole time — and now, an entire new dedicated program places the university even further as a leading supporter of artistic explorations of innovative technology. With a $1.5-million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, MIT has announced that it is establishing the Center for Art, Science & Technology, or CAST.
“MIT is arguably one of the only institutions that can combine internationally recognized excellence in science and engineering with a strong and deep heritage in design and the performing and visual arts,” said MIT professor Philip S. Khoury, a co-author of the CAST proposal, in a press release. The announcement goes on to explain that the admirably ambitious goal of the center is to strengthen the role of the arts at the university, but also to offer “a model for other universities seeking to integrate exploration in the arts with scientific and technological inquiry."
The $1.5 million will go toward providing funding for faculty, researchers, and curators to develop interdisciplinary courses, academic projects, and exhibitions that investigate the intersection of art, science, and technology. Rather than being an isolated department, the CAST initiative will help to embed artists in other areas of the university and create organic opportunities for collaboration. The new center will also fund a biannual symposium on art, science, and technology, beginning in the 2013 academic year.
MIT’s Media Lab and Center for Advanced Visual Studies already host some of the most avant-garde explorations of creative technology, but the new initiative seems to push into the territory of artistically oriented departments like New York University’s burgeoning Interactive Telecommunications Program. As more artists turn to technology, programs like CAST and its attendant symposia are likely to become more common and more important in encouraging critical dialogue around the new bodies of work.