TO MAKE PUBLIC, Experimental Publication at ACT

Every semester, ACT offers some recurring courses lead by the program’s faculty and others by visiting international artists and cultural practitioners. One of the most exciting ventures of the Spring ‘16 semester here at ACT was an experimental publication class lead by Rotterdam-based artist duo Bik Van der Pol.


Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol

Since 1995, Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol work collaboratively as Bik Van der Pol. Working as a collective is a conscious political and artistic choice. Radically moving away from the studio as a place of production, they took the artistic workplace itself -practice- as the format of research and production. Each project starts with investigation of the framework in which it will present itself as performative platform, and engages in a dialogue with the context. Their practice is invested in public, common space; in how and what ways citizens have access to and can participate in forming this space, how art can be a tool or a place to generate forms of knowledge, how this relates to ‘publicness’. Their main questions are: How is the psychological experience of space affected by intensified urbanization, communication, and exchange of information and mediatization of politics? What is this space, who owns it, who decides, who is listening, and what role can citizens play and claim, if we understand the role of art to disclose and articulate meaning in dialogue with other fields of knowledge to produce a public sphere?

Their most recent work WERE IT AS IF is opening May 26 at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam.   

For their work at ACT, Bik Van der Pol designed a course that would commit to questioning the ‘publication’ as an act of ‘making public’ as opposed to the confinement of traditional printed matter. The main objective was to apply this ‘making public’ to the CAVS Special Collection which ACT is a custodian of.


Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Means and Meanings in Today’s Art. 1975.

The Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) was conceived by its founder György Kepes, in the spirit of modern optimism, as a place for the free comingling of technological advancement and humanistic values. That was the concept, but what of the Center’s personalities and politics—its reality—as we find it today, working in and alongside universities so steeped in interdisciplinity.

Students participating in the class acted as an experimental editorial board, adapting the course syllabus to the evolution of their separate projects as well as the general umbrella of ‘making public’. Nicole Ashurian, Natasha Balwit, Bik Van der Pol, Andrea Carillo, Angel Chen, Lucas Freeman, Raafat Majzoub, and Abraham Zamcheck created a series of intersection points throughout the semester, where the CAVS was made public to guests visiting the editorial board meetings, an exhibition at Harvard’s Carpenter Center and public interventions on the MIT campus.

As part of the public making, networking and outreach agenda of the editorial board, the projects and findings concluding the semester were presented in an exhibition at the Carpenter Center. Titled “Don’t Erase Till Monday”, the exhibition showcased five publications that negotiate with CAVS as an archive of Fellows’ aspirations and correspondences, always flirting with fiction or a not-yet reality. The publications make public pieces of the CAVS universe without necessarily adhering to its optimistic agenda for harmonizing art and science at the civic scale. Though MIT-affiliated, ACT’s Experimental Publishing editorial board approached the Center as an outsider. This was not a CAVS event; no pretense of loyalty here, but rather an honest curiosity about how the Center might help us think and reflect contemporary urgencies.

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Masters program poster, Center for Advanced Visual Studies, ca1987. Courtesy CAVS Special Collection.

Using forms of print, performance, video, and public intervention, “Don’t Erase Till Monday” occupies the space between eulogy and rejuvenation through meditations on landscapes, the sky, 1969, speculative ruins, dictatorship, frontiers, audience-making, and participation. The five publications engage with works of CAVS artists such as György Kepes, Otto Piene and Aldo Tambellini, the topics they worked on, and their positions within MIT and the art world.



Introductions by James Voorhies (Director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts) and Liesbeth Bik (Bik Van der Pol) 


Nicole Ashurian — Don’t Erase Till Monday, 10-minute performative action



photo: Jesse Erin Posner 

Structured around nodes of artifacts rather than time, this experimental publication revisits the archive with a knowing eye of participation.

Natasha Balwit — Desert Celebrations, 7-minute video

A meditation on desert landscapes and spectacles of festivity, with footage from the Desert Sun/Desert Moon and Celebrations projects from the archives of the CAVS.

Andrea Carillo — Rise to the Sky, 20-minute audio collage

Listen here



Throughout time, ‘Space’ and ‘Sky’ had symbolized an unknown territory, a utopian surface to which we speculate and dream. ‘Rise to the Sky’ is an audio piece, a collage of documents reflecting upon the connection between the CAVS to Sky and Space practices, and subsequently its relationship to NASA.

Raafat Majzoub — Here – Then, Again, Evidence of an ongoing situation



The speculative ruins of Kenneth Noland’s “Here – There” mural lay scattered in Weisner Building’s lobby. The knowing bodies of these ruins were engraved with stories of this building that were never told. Majzoub’s “Here – Then, Again” is an echo of the collapse of time and space caused by an archive attempting to be made public. For more information, please visit the following links Here – Then / Here – Then, Again / Littering and Loitering  

Abbie Zamcheck —  A Working Attempt At Withdrawal, 20-minute interactive play


photo: Jesse Erin Posner 


A guided confrontation with the history of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS), focusing on the withdrawal of the center’s artists from the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1969, and the effort to build an island outside of MIT.