Special Projects



Media Lab artists create new generative art installation

for the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion


Boston, MA - Phases is a new generative art installation by Sophia Brueckner and Catherine D’Ignazio, created for the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion located in Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway. The Pavilion is the Welcome Center for the Boston Harbor Islands national park area. Starting Monday, July 8th and running only after sunset, the animation renders moonlight sparkling on ocean waves receding into the nighttime darkness. It is purposefully reminiscent of the condensed landscapes in early computer games where the complexity of nature is distilled into such a small number of pixels, analogous to modern difficulties in reducing complex real-world environments and situations into simple metrics computers can understand.

The animation is alive, and the computer program pulls information in real-time regarding the conditions of the Boston Harbor Islands to influence the constantly evolving animation. The tides affect the shape and speed of the overlapping and receding patterns. The middle column of light changes with the phases of the moon. Weather conditions affect the beams of light moving across the scene, and, on clear nights, flickering pixels emulate the glitter of light on water. While bringing awareness to the challenge of capturing real-world complexities using limited representations within the computer, Phases uses technology to link two places together in real-time, bringing a little bit of the Boston Harbor Islands to the city.

Programming for the low-resolution LED screens at the Pavilion is sponsored by the National Park Service and Boston Harbor Island Alliance. The programming content, curated by Boston Cyberarts, is designed to enliven a focal point of the Greenway after dark with themes that connect the viewer to the islands-based park 15 minutes from downtown Boston.


Sophia Brueckner, born in Detroit, MI, is an artist and engineer. Inseparable from computers since the age of two, she believes she is a cyborg. She received her Sc.B. in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics from Brown University. As a software engineer at Google, she worked on the front-end development and interface design of products used by tens of millions and later on experimental projects within Google Research. Brueckner earned her MFA in Digital + Media at the Rhode Island School of Design and was also an instructor there teaching a course on science fiction and art. Her artwork has been exhibited internationally, and, in particular, she is interested in interaction design, generative art, algorithmic writing, and, as a technology antidote, painting. She feels an urgency to understand and bring awareness to technology’s controlling effects, and to encourage the ethical and thoughtful design of new technologies. She recently joined the MIT Media Lab as a graduate student in the Fluid Interfaces research group.

kanarinka, a.k.a. Catherine D’Ignazio, is an artist, software developer and educator. She is the Director of the Institute for Infinitely Small Things, and formerly led the Experimental Geography Research Cluster at RISD’s Digital+Media program. She is currently a graduate student at MIT’s Center for Civic Media. Her artwork has been exhibited at the ICA Boston, Eyebeam, and MASSMoCA, and has won awards from the Tanne Foundation and Turbulence.org. kanarinka has a BA in International Relations from Tufts University (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and an MFA in Studio Art from Maine College of Art. She has lived and worked in Paris, Buenos Aires, and Michigan, and currently resides in Waltham, MA.


Boston Cyberarts, the National Park Service and Boston Harbor Island Alliance have collaborated on an ongoing project to commission public algorithmic art for display on the LED screens at the Boston Harbor Island Pavilion on Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway. Boston Cyberarts commissions algorithmic artists, asking them to write computer programs that will create real time generative art that will be constantly changing. In an effort to directly relate to the Harbor Islands themselves, they draw from the National Park’s geographic information system (GIS) databases or streaming data from the islands themselves as a source, but the work remains somewhat abstract in nature. This program ties into the innovative strengths of the Boston area, using digital art algorithms to heighten the interest in Boston Harbor’s history and natural complex ecosystems.

Decoding the Islands

rebengreenway  Life: 44013 by digital artist Alexander Reben

Alexander Reben at the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion (between State St. & Atlantic Ave.)

Reben’s work takes real-time water turbidity information from buoy 44013 in Boston Harbor.  In this case, turbidity is determined by plankton count and it is matched with water temperature to see how quickly the marine environment will encourage life.  The data “seeds” the community you see on the screen.  The community can grow if the conditions are right.   Colors change from green to blue to red. When the new community reaches equilibrium, the program calculates a score to determine successful growth.  Then the sequence resets and starts again.

For more information about the artist, visit http://areben.com/.




Cycles, Tides and Seasons, by Ben Houge

Reception: Thursday May 31st, 8-9 pm at the Harbor Islands Pavilion
Refreshments provided by Nix’s Mate Restaurant

The National Park Service and the Boston Harbor Island Alliance have teamed up with Boston Cyberarts to create a two year art program calling for artists to make work for the two low-resolution screens at the Harbor Island Pavilion on the Greenway Conservancy. This exciting new endeavor will enliven the Greenway in the evening, while promoting the creative innovation of the region. While the Harbor Island Pavilion displays are approximately 6 x 8 feet, they have a resolution of only 48 x 64 pixels, which is not suitable for recognizable video imagery. Therefore, Boston Cyberarts has decided to commission various algorithmic artists to write programs that will create real time generative art that constantly changes.

In an effort to directly relate to the Harbor Islands themselves, the commissioned artists will draw from the National Park’s geographic information system (GIS) databases as a source, but the work will be abstract in nature. This program ties into the innovative strengths of the Boston area, using digital art algorithms to heighten the interest in Boston Harbor’s history and natural complex ecosystems.

The first work commissioned for the program is Cycles, Tides, and Seasons, by Cambridge-based artist Ben Houge. Houge is a algorithmic artist, composer and sound artist. His areas of activity range from computer game design and soundtracks to sacred choral music. Recently, he was artist in residence at the MIT Media Lab and teaches video game music in the Film Scoring Department at Berklee College of Music.

Houge’s Cycles, Tides, and Seasons reconnects Boston city dwellers with the natural environment in Boston Harbor, recalling a time when sustenance and society depended on the rhythms of nature. The piece superimposes data on three different time scales, reflecting the short term rhythms of Boston Harbor’s three lighthouses, the semi-diurnal rhythms of tides and waves (responding to real-time oceanographic information over the internet), and the slow, phenological change of the seasons, as reflected in bee populations on various Boston Harbor Islands.

Art on the Marquee

Art on the Marquee

photo credit: Evan Richman/MCCA

Boston Cyberarts and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority are commissioning public media art for display on the new 80 foot LED Marquee outside the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Our sixth call for entries is happening now! Proposals for 30 second works are due May 6. Click here for the call.

Read more about Art on the Marquee!

Boston Cyberarts at Atlantic Wharf

Boston Cyberars at Atlantic Wharf

In April we said a fond farewell to Atlantic Wharf, after a successful year of cyberart, electronic music and new media public art on Boston’s waterfront.

Here’s the Cyberarts wrap-up: We organized seven exhibitions of new media art, including art from such new media celebs as Daniel Rozin, David Rokeby, Golan Levin and Martin Wattenberg. We also presented five electronic music performances ranging from drone to voice to alttered and artist-built instruments. During the Boston Cyberarts Festival we hosted an art and technology dance performance by local company Kinodance, an augmented reality installation by Mark Skwarek, a virtual reality presentation by Public VR and a presentation and performance of the DemoScene.

Thanks to the people at Boston Properties for a great year of cyberart!

See the Boston Cyberarts at Atlantic Wharf projects!


Imagine a weekend-long party where you make stuff, learn from other coders and artists, watch nifty demos, hang out with your friends, maybe meet some of your heroes, and hear some kickass music. That’s a demo party. A bunch of artists, musicians, and coders sitting in a room with their computers (sometimes escaping outside) being silly, and getting to know each other. Don’t worry, you’re allowed to sleep. This isn’t a 48-hour LARP. No one will assassinate you. It is important to get enough rest and calories or you won’t enjoy the party, and the rest of us will be very thankful if you shower at least twice during the event.

North America’s only current freestanding demoparty took place for the second time from June 17-19, 2011 at Friendly Crossways Hostel and Retreat Center in Harvard, Massachusetts, 45 min west of Boston. Registration for that party opened in April 2011. Watch for the next party, coming June 2012!


The Ghana ThinkTank

The Ghana Thinktank is developing the First World!

Using new media and an interactive process it re-defines the world order, flips the usual roles of international development and builds important cross- cultural relationships. Ghana Thinktank is a decade-long project now in its fifth year. They were finalists last year for the Cartier Award and have been commissioned to exhibit the work at many museums and galleries internationally including ZKM in Germany, F.A.C.T. in Liverpool, Eyebeam and Queens Museum in NYC and The Bat Yam Museum for Contemporary Art in Israel. “Third World” think tanks analyze “First World” problems and propose solutions, which we enact in the community where the problems originated – whether those solutions seem impractical or brilliant. The success or failure of the solutions is documented and sent back to the think tanks, initiating another round of dialogue and action. For exhibitions we build elaborate site specific installations that document the entire process and involve audience participants in each step.

Ghana Thinktank was founded in 2006 by John Ewing, Matey Odonkor and Christopher Robbins. Carmen Montoya joined the group in 2009.


D.I.E.T: Discipline, Interaction, Existence, Transportation

D.I.E.T is a project of Heidi Kayser, funded by New England Foundation for the Arts and sponsored by Boston Cyberarts. D.I.E.T explores the various ways that we as people situate ourselves in society. We follow cultural norms of consumerism, materialism, social boundaries, and all together take life too seriously. A series of public performances / interventions and sculptures take a look at the mechanisms that create our every day lives.

Using the web as a tool for massive collaboration, and both sound and video juxtaposed with sculpture and performance, D.I.E.T is an ongoing project that takes place in public and private space throughout the Greater Boston area.


A Dance in Sol LeWitt’s ‘Bars of Color Within Squares'

The performance of “A Dance in Sol LeWitt’s ‘Bars of Color Within Squares’” premiered at MIT’s Green Center on December 12th, 2010.

The dance performance / new media work was staged on the stunning polychrome terrazzo floor, “Bars of Colors within Squares (MIT)” (2007), by Sol Le Witt for the atrium by MIT’s Green Center for Physics and buildings 4,6 & 8. The piece was both a live performance with audience situated at the elevated cross bridges and balconies on floors 2, 3 & 4 looking down from above onto the atrium floor housing the performance and video projections within the performance which revealed real-time transformations of the movements and color fields. It was a tremendously successful collaborative process with music by Phillip Glass, and 12 artist/performers in total. The performance drew over 130 attendees who occupied the upper floors of the atrium.

Concept & Direction: Nell Breyer. Artistic Collaboration: Sarah Baumert, Nell Breyer, Sarah Witt, Dejan Srhoj, Ricky Kuperman, Alissa Cardone. Performers: Sarah Baumert, Isidore Bethel, Nell Breyer, Alissa Cardone, Theodossios Issaias, Ricky Kuperman, Kate Ladenheim, Catherine Murcek, Meg Rotzel, Dejan Srhoj,Torena Webb, Sarah Witt.


Virtual Street Corners

During the Month of June, 2010, large glass storefronts in Brookline and Roxbury were transformed into live video screens, providing pedestrians of one neighborhood with a portal into the other’s world. Running 24/7, these life-size screens enabled real-time interaction between residents of Coolidge Corner and Dudley Square.

Though only 2.4 miles apart and connected by the Route 66 bus, people living in these neighborhoods rarely visit the other. Using technology developed to bridge geographical distances, Virtual Street Corners instead traverses the social boundaries that separate two important cultural and transportation hubs tha have significant historical connections.

Virtual Street Corners was created by John Ewing and received grants from Knight Foundation, NEFA and Black Rock Art Foundation.


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