The 2023 Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts at MIT awarded four recipients, including Reina Mun (SMACT ’23).

What happens when technologies fulfill their mission? What happens when they fail, or decay, or when the need for which they were created no longer exists? These are the questions asked by the four student winners of the 2023 Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts at MIT. Working across a broad spectrum of media, these four artists explore our intimate relationships with time, with memory and tradition, and with the fleeting nature of meaning. The stories they tell begin where most stories end, in a magical rearview mirror that somehow tells us more about where we are heading than where we have been.

The Schnitzer Prize is presented to current MIT students for excellence in a body of work. Students submit an artistic portfolio for consideration. “Working with a wide range of media, from photography and video to artist books and printed matter, as well as devising technologically sophisticated installations and interactive objects, these remarkable students demonstrate the diversity and excellence of creative work taking place at the Institute,” says Andrea Volpe, Director of the Council for the Arts at MIT (CAMIT). “All four Schnitzer prize winners reflect on their relationships to memory, time, place, and technology. The council is particularly proud to have previously supported the work of these artists through its grant programs.”

Reina Mun (SMACT ’23) delves into the reciprocal relationship between object and observer. In Silence Top, she explores the effect of silence in different contexts. The piece, inspired by the traditional Korean soban low table, sounds semitones when groups of three or more people seated at the table fall silent; the tones grow more aggressive and frequent as the silence persists. Yet when a single person sits in silence at the table, that silence is honored, and the piece emits a gentle mist.

State of mind is front and foremost in Chaotic Timer, where viewers input their perceived stress level—from one to ten—into an interactive and algorithmic device that marks time with magnetized balls that roll in a series of pendulum modules. Countdown speed is affected by the user’s stress level. A flux viewing film atop the modules changes color with the changing strength of the magnetic field. “Participants are the co-creators of the work,” says Mun. “Each participant creates a different experience and outcome based on inputs unique to the individual.”

Learn more here.


SilenceTop is an interactive microarchitecture that reinterprets the traditional Korean low-table Soban. This project explores the theme of silence in social and non-social settings, redefining the meaning of solitude and the pauses during social interactions.

Chaotic Timer

Chaotic Timer is an interactive and algorithmic timer driven by the user’s stress level. It subverts the conventional way of using a timer and the associated ideas of perfectionism and staying occupied.


Creatures of the Current

In collaboration with Inferstudio.

Seoul is among the most digitally sensed cities in the world, with realtime IOT sensors capturing and publishing public data on environmental and urban phenomena. Polluted dust drifting in the air currents above and around Seoul has been the source of growing geopolitical, health, and environmental concerns over the past decade.

Every hour, Seoul reports levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, PM10, and PM2.5 particulates from monitoring stations in each of the city’s 25 districts. However, encountering this data as tables of numerical values can be difficult to relate to.