Elizabeth Finch’s article begins with the 1968 founding of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT by Gyorgy Kepes (1906-2001), a champion of “relatedness” between the arts and sciences. The article addresses the context out of which CAVS emerged – a period marked by a growing awareness of the need for the arts and humanities to bring “balance” to a technical environment in light of protests against military research at MIT – and the pragmatism, experimentation, and wishful thinking that shaped CAVS from its early years to the establishment of the Media Lab in 1980. While art at MIT has generally paralleled contemporaneous trends of the past four decades – from light and kinetic art to computer and video art to “environmental,” site-dependent events – allegiance to the value of artists’ collaborations with engineers and scientists distinguishes CAVS and makes it a particularly rich repository of historical intent. Finch’s article grows out of the belief that we in the arts can better understand our own by turns ambivalent and utopian attitudes toward technology by considering those of the past.
Elizabeth Finch is the Lunder Curator of American Art at Colby College Museum, Waterville, ME. She curated the exhibition “A Mano: Trabahos sobre papel de Elena del Rivero” at the Institut Valencia d’Art Modern in Spain in 2006. She was a senior editor at Art on Paper and a curator at The Drawing Center. She has published many articles and reviews, including “Technical Details: The Early Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered” in Art on Paper. Her PhD dissertation at the City University of New York is titled “Languages of Vision: Gyorgy Kepes and the ‘New Landscape’ of Art and Science.” She currently serves as an advisor to the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT.