The Future

This MIT archive will be your trippiest scrolling experience today

A Center for Visual Studies archive scatters 50 years of art across three-dimensional space.

The Future

This MIT archive will be your trippiest scrolling experience today

A Center for Visual Studies archive scatters 50 years of art across three-dimensional space.

At first, the new website for the collection of MIT’s influential Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) seems like a straightforward web page. But as it scrolls down, through the introductory text and into randomly selected works from the archive, it becomes clear that the content is warping into three dimensional space, and branching into spiraling trees of related work, organized by creator and medium — an experience designed to evoke the sensation of wandering through the center’s physical archive.

“Someone might be coming in to do research on environmental sculpture, and then they see all these images on, I don’t know, holography, and then they’d say ‘oh, I really want to check that out,’” said Jeremy Grubman, an MIT archivist who spearheaded the project. “So I wanted to find a way to produce that in a digital space, to produce that concept of serendipitous browsing.”

Click the name of an artist or work in the collection and the perspective rotates, shifting the view onto a new axis to explore the new branch: one side-journey leads to photos of Gates From the Body, a “light sculpture” by Spanish architect Juan Navarro Baldeweg, and another to a series of stills from Prelude and Liebestod, a 1970s video art project by pioneering digital artist Ron Hays.

Grubman sees the project as a reflection of CAVS itself, a fiercely interdisciplinary program established in 1967 that’s served as a home for genre-bending artists including kinetic artist Otto Piene and renowned choreographer Yvonne Rainer. The new archive, which launched last week after a development process that spanned years, will continue to grow as Grubman and his team continue to bring more content online.

Jon Christian is a contributing writer to the Outline. Follow him on Twitter: @Jon_Christian.
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