1967–2009

The Center for Advanced Visual Studies special collection is the repository of a 42 year history of collaborative and time-based productions generated by or related to the tenure of over 200 internationally recognized artist-fellows. The materials include moving images in various time based media, posters and artists’ prints, photographs, and over 130 feet of documents including artists’ notes, sketches, and correspondence. Materials concern the processes and productions of artists including György Kepes, Aldo Tambellini, Stan van der Beek, Charlotte Moorman, Antoni Muntadas, Nam June Paik, Otto Piene, Yvonne Rainer, Maryanne Amacher, Alan Sonfist, Takis, Jack Burnham, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Judith Barry, and John Malpede.

View the full list of artists from the CAVS special collection: CAVS people and projects.

 

History

The Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1967 by Professor György Kepes. The Center emphasized collaboration across previously disparate fields in order to seek out the potential of emerging technologies in the process of creating works of art on a civic scale. Artists, scientists, engineers, and designers were selected to come to the Center as fellows, and pursue both individual and collaborative projects. Many of the first generation of CAVS Fellows focused on techniques and technologies such as light art and kinetic sculpture.

In 1974 Otto Piene, the first international CAVS Fellow, became director after Kepes’ retirement. Piene would direct the Center for 20 years until his own retirement in 1994. Piene’s leadership saw a new era of CAVS- a formalization of the academic program as the Master of Science in Visual Studies became MIT’s first graduate degree in the arts. CAVS Fellows took part in more frequent and higher profile projects, such as the Centerbeam kinetic sculpture featured at documenta 6 in 1977 and again on the National Mall at Washington, DC in 1978. The Center also hosted a series of conferences on Sky Art (a term coined by Piene to describe projects using the sky and space as a canvas and/or medium). During Piene’s tenure, the scope of technologies explored by CAVS Fellows broadened to include steam, laser, holography, environmental sculpture, computer graphics and animation, video, laserdisc, sound, performance, and dance. Following Piene’s retirement, CAVS had a series of directors including previous Fellow and Director of Projects Elizabeth Goldring, Professor and Fellow Paul Earls, holographer Steve Benton, and artist Krzyzstof Wodiczko.

In 2010, MIT merged the Center with the Visual Arts Program (VAP) to form the Program in Art, Culture & Technology (ACT). In 2018 ACT celebrated the CAVS50 anniversary by developing exhibitions, events, an international symposium, and a publication, all intended to explore ideas that emerged from CAVS—art and the environment, art at the civic scale, and art as it relates to the future—in a contemporary context.

 

Digital Portal

A number of digitized materials from the CAVS Special Collection have been made available on our experimental digital collection interface. Currently featuring images of works, the site also includes posters, academic course booklets from the Master of Science in Visual Studies (SMVisS) degree program, and publications from exhibitions. Click on the link below to browse images by artist, subject, or scroll through an ever changing collection of images.

Enter the Digital Portal

This project is a collaboration between Gediminas Urbonas, ACT director (2015-2017), ACT Archivist Jeremy Grubman, The MIT Museum, and information design specialists NODE Berlin Oslo and Bengler, and was funded from NEA grant.

Collections Processing and Access

A portion of collection materials are digitized and available by request. The physical collection may be browsed on request by appointment. See Reading Room and Research Policies page for details. For inquiries on the use of images, video, and other materials, contact ACT’s Project Archivist  or email actreference@mit.edu.