ACT Students Win 2018 Schnitzer Prize and Wiesner Student Art Awards

Nicolás Kisic Aguirre with his Modular Rhythm Machine, 2017. Credit: Design Indaba.
ACT at MIT

Reception for the Schnitzer Prize exhibition
Friday, June 1, 2018 from 4:00-6:00pm
Wiesner Student Art Gallery
2nd floor of the MIT Stratton Student Center

Free and open to the public

About the Schnitzer Prize:

Established over 20 years ago by real estate investor and MIT metallurgy graduate Harold Schnitzer, the prizes recognize and reward undergraduate students who demonstrate artistic excellence. This year’s recipients include an installation artist, a functional fashion designer, and an inventor who had his path set when he was “a very tiny human.”

Admittedly “obsessed” with inventing and playing drums since very early on, second prize recipient Nicolás Kisic Aguirre combined these passions when he built a drum kit out of found objects. Since then, he has continued to take things apart in order to find new and better ways to reassemble them.

“Almost 30 years after,” he observes, “I come to realize I’m doing essentially the same. Now, however, I’m armed with tools and knowledge that enable me to give different meaning and increased complexity to my work.”

Along the way, Kisic has also found ways to combine his love of music and meddling to develop a popular pirate music business and to avoid following his father and brother into economics “Research and investigation is enhanced by design,” Kisic asserts, expressing appreciation for his Art, Culture and Technology program (ACT) that offers “precisely an experimental setting where both [intervention and creation] could be combined into producing an artistic, investigative approach.”

As he had studied elsewhere before coming to Cambridge, Kisic also thanks the MIT for “wish[ing] success to its community and deploy[ing] all of its resources to the support and realization of its projects….. It helped me understand what had happened over the past years, and where I could go from now on.”

Having originally been interested in creative arts (particularly painting), Honorable Mention awardee Gary Zhexi Zhang recalls becoming “more interested in how techno-science influences who we are, how we think, [and] the ideologies and forms of knowledge we assume.”

Starting with a study of slime mold, Zhang has since explored anthropology and STS, disciplines which, he claims, “I’ve increasingly kind of aligned my own thinking with since.” He has also discovered film.

“I think there is a propagandistic appeal,” he suggests of his new media passion.

Attracted by the “uniquely interdisciplinary and research-driven” ACT program, Zhang  says he is always amazed at all MIT has to offer, both scientifically and artistically.

“You get to witness some of the most egregious excesses of the military-industrial complex first-hand, “ he notes, “as well some of the most weird and creative and brilliant individuals I’ve ever met.”

From the Arts at MIT’s Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST). Full text here.

 

About the Wiesner Student Art Awards:

As it is spread all over campus, it can be difficult for some to find the heart of the arts community at MIT. Fortunately, our dedicated students navigate underground hallways and numbered buildings to make their mark on the arts community and the greater art world.

This year, graduate student Laura Serejo Genes has been recognized for her artistic efforts with the Laya and Jerome B. Wiesner Student Art Awards, which were created in 1979 to recognize individuals and groups that contribute to the world of art, both at the Institute and far abroad.

Having attended Stuyvesant High (which, she observes, is “deeply rooted in the tradition of science, mathematics and technology”), Genes admits that, “the sciences helped me make sense of the world, but it was the arts that helped me communicate my understanding.”

Working with the “intimate” Art Culture and Technology program (ACT), Genes has been able not only to bring together many parts of herself, but of her community as well.

“We are located next to the Media Lab but are not part of the Media Lab,” she observes, speaking of the small but diverse ACT cohort. “We are in the Architecture Department but located on the other side of campus. We are located right next to the List Center but not officially affiliated with them in any way. It’s sort of a beautiful, relational position to many things but gives us the autonomy we need to make art that is not deferential to anything.”

Having realized while at Cooper Union that visual arts “encompass much more than drawing, painting and sculpture,” Genes has also used MIT as a palette and performance space, engaging others in her evolving oeuvre. In her 2016 piece “Flag Life,” Genes gathered diverse members of the student body (including fellow ACT participants and ROTC cadets) to offer an act of “arbitrary solidarity” before the 2016 election.

“ROTC was consulted to ensure that the flag was not affected and not an overt form of protest,” Genes explains.

“Now, I’m trying very hard to look careers to truly combine and work with these two skill sets,” she says, expressing a hope that her own efforts will “encourage…cross-collaboration between the arts and tech.”

From the Arts at MIT’s Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST). Full text here.