Overview | Public Space? Lost & Found

Taller de artista, Antoni Muntadas. Paisajes Urbanos, 2007

The MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) and the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) present Public Space? Lost & Found, a two-day symposium and accompanying exhibition to celebrate the living legacy of artist and educator Antoni Muntadas and collectively redefine ideas of public space and its multiple functions. Convening scholars, artists, architects, and planners from MIT and beyond, the symposium will engage contemporary critical discourses and practices on public space.

The symposium and exhibition investigate the definitions of public space across disciplines and the tools, tactics, and consequences of reclaiming — or to use a term coined by Muntadas, creating interventions in — public space through art and architecture. Public Art, that is art in public space, is a concept that has been in discussion and revision throughout the evolution of the terms “art” and “city” themselves. Recent movements — including those in Egypt, Madrid, New York and around the world in Occupy communities — have exposed the distance between “public” and “space” and reflect citizens’ interests in recovering and re-appropriating the city or town square.  The themes of the symposium draw from Muntadas’s career at MIT and his artistic practice, a legacy that directly affects the work and philosophies of many of the invited speakers.

Muntadas came to MIT in 1977 to join the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) as a research fellow. In this experimental setting, he explored topics such as the media landscape and the dichotomies between subjectivity and objectivity and private and public. It was at CAVS that he coined the term “media landscape” to define the ever-expanding presence of mass media, audiovisual material, and advertisements in public space. While the institutional structure changed two times over his career and he later became Professor of the Practice, his seminars became a fixture in the curriculum as they focused on understanding spatial cultural identity through art and architecture. Read more about Muntadas and his pedagogical legacy…

A forthcoming publication will expand the symposium discussions and bring together divergent voices in theory and practice through texts and projects that challenge or support ideas of cultural identity by documenting and analyzing public spaces across several geographies and cultures in recent history.

The Public Space? Lost & Found symposium and exhibition is chaired by Gediminas Urbonas, Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor in ACT at MIT’s Department of Architecture. Urbonas is a co-founder of the Transaction Archive and co-director of the Pro-test Lab Archive. Co-founded with Nomeda Urbonas, the Urbonas Studio is an interdisciplinary research practice that advocates for the reclamation of public space and cultural and political imagination as tools for social change. Urbonas Studio has exhibited internationally including in Venice, San Paulo, Berlin, Moscow, Lyon, and Gwangju Biennales, as well as at the Manifesta and Documenta exhibitions. Their writings on artistic research as a form of intervention in social and political crises have been published in books such as Devices for Action by MACBA Barcelona and Villa Lituania by Sternberg Press.

Concept and Curatorial
Gediminas Urbonas, Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor, ACT, MIT Department of Architecture
Mariel Villeré, SMArchS ’13, History, Theory & Criticism, MIT

Ann Lui, SMArchS ’14, History, Theory & Criticism, MIT
Jonathan Crisman, MArch and MCP ’13; Project Director & Core Faculty, Urban Humanities Initiative, UCLA
Gina Badger, SMVisS ’10; Editor, The FUSE magazine; artist


Exhibition research and design
Nomeda Urbonas, ACT Fellow; PhD candidate in Art & Common Space, NTNU, Norway
Fabio Ciaravella, ACT Fellow (2013/14); PhD candidate in Architecture and Urban Phenomenology, Università della Basilicata, Unibas
Andrew Ferentinos MArch ’11; Principal, Ferentinos Architecture
Ana Cristina Vargas, SMArchS ’14
Adi Hollander, SMACT ’15


Art, Culture and Technology Program Coordination Support
Marion Cunningham, Administrative Officer
Laura Anca Chichisan, Public Programs and Communications Coordinator
Lucas Spivey, Interim Producer
Seth Avecilla, Fabrication Associate
Madeleine Gallagher, Media Associate


Publication & Website Designers
NODE Berlin


Thanks to: Azra Akšamija, Oliver Lutz, James Paradis, Greg Tucker, Rafi Segal, Shauna Mecartea, Elizabeth Murphy, Stacy Pyron


Acknowledgements: Adèle Naude Santos, Leila Kinney, Nader Tehrani, Evan Ziporyn, Susan Cohen, Joichi Ito, Renée Green, Ethan Zuckerman, James Paradis.


This program was made possible by funding provided by CAST; the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, Office of the Dean (SA+P); MIT Department of Architecture; ACT; the Council for the Arts at MIT (CAMIT); MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing (CMS); Center for Civic Media; and the Media Lab.

This program is presented in collaboration with the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology.


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