Press releases | Culture 01.02.2011

“AR – Artistic Research” Second Chapter: György Kepes – Photograms and Color Polaroids

The MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) in collaboration with the global acting Siemens Stiftung announces the second chapter in the one-year collaboration AR – Artistic Research (AR): György Kepes. AR draws on MIT’s rich history of artists working with scientists and new technology to create some of the world’s most cutting-edge art. Including a series of displays of work by artists currently at MIT and those from outside who have been inspired by MIT’s seminal trans-disciplinary approach to making art, AR will culminate in a publication.

The second installment of AR showcases thirteen rarely seen photograms and color Polaroids by late MIT Institute Professor and Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) founder György Kepes. Kepes’s energy-laden visual represen-tations fluently bridge the fields of technology, nature and abstract artistic imagination. In Kepes’s view, the image is capable of improving education, insight and understanding, and is likened to an orientation process in which mankind can find “a temporary equilibrium in his conflicts with nature."

A common avant-garde technique, the photogram is a photographic image exposed by placing objects directly onto the surface of the photosensitive material, without the use of a camera. In contrast to the impressionist perception where things shimmer under the influence of changing illumination, photograms are true manifestations of light.

In the 1970s Kepes experimented with light and techniques of double expo-sure. Alluding to his earlier art practice as a painter, he combined ephemeral phenomena with geometric structures. The objects found in nature confirm his interest in the integrity of nature and the tools of science. In the 1980s series
of large scale Polaroids the same structure and components are present, only this time the physicality of the object outweighs the abstract value of the indi-vidual item.

GYÖRGY KEPES – About the Artist

Born in 1906, Kepes started his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. Originally trained in impressionist styles he soon felt attracted to the abstract visual language of the avant-garde. From the very beginning of his career Kepes felt a keen interest in the technological potential to depict the visible world, in particular the effects of light. Immediately after graduation he became interested in filmmaking and the visual representation of motion and formalistic effects. At the invitation of a fellow Hungarian, László Moholy-Nagy, he moved to Berlin in 1930. In the Weimar Era the German capital had become a hotspot of avant-garde activities. In fact, Moholy-Nagy was a charis-matic former Bauhaus teacher. He coined the term “the New Vision” for his belief that photography could create a whole new way of seeing. When Moholy-Nagy fled Nazi Germany in 1935, Kepes followed him, first to Amsterdam, then London and, finally, Chicago, where they founded a new design school, the short-lived New Bauhaus. In 1943 Kepes left Chicago and his mentor to teach at Brooklyn College.During his stay in Brooklyn in 1949 Kepes published The Language of Vision, which set out his theories on the impact of the “new” technologies of photography, cinema and television on visual culture. It was followed by the seven-volume Vision and Value series. In 1967 Kepes founded MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, a laboratory for interdisciplinary art practice and artistic research. “Integration, planning, and form are the key words of all pro-gressive efforts today”, he wrote as early as 1949, “the goal is a new vital structure-order, a new form on a social plane, in which all present knowledge and technological possessions may function unhindered as a whole.”


About ACT

The MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology operates as a critical studies and production based laboratory, connecting the arts with an advanced technological community. AR – Artistic Research reflects the mission of ACT as an academic and research unit emphasizing artistic practice as knowledge production and dissemination.

About Siemens Stiftung

The Siemens Stiftung, a nonprofit foundation under German civil law, was founded in the fall of 2008 by Siemens AG. The foundation works with projects to strengthen civil society, particularly in Africa, Latin America and Germany/Europe. Its aim is to make a long-term contribution to reducing poverty and improving education. The foundation operates in three areas: It supports enlarging basic services and improving social structures; initiates educational projects; and helps reflect cultural identities and arts. The over-arching principle for the foundation's work is to help people help themselves. The Siemens Stiftung works in close cooperation with local and international partners as well as in alliance with the other Siemens foundations established by Siemens in Argentina, Brazil, France, Colombia and the United States.