Artist selected for Simetría residency program wins MIT visual arts prize

Chilean artist Nicole L’Huillier, a graduate of the MIT “Opera of the Future” Media Lab, has been awarded the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts, an award given each year to three to five MIT students for excellence in their artistic work.

The winning work, “El Poema de la Fábrica Cósmica,” was created as part of her artistic residency with the Simetría program at the ALMA and VLT observatories on Cerro Paranal, Chile, and at the Large Hadron Collider, CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland, during August 2019.

“This is an exercise of listening to emerge together, stimulate perception, confuse reality, and resonate with the sense that we are as much part of nature as we are part of the culture,” said Nicole about her work.

The piece comprises a kinetic, sonic sculpture called PARACANTORA, which features several listening devices and environmental sensors measuring parameters such as barometric pressure, altitude, temperature, acceleration, electromagnetic fields, air currents, and wind, mapping the sites’ environmental sounds in real-time and creating a musical interpretation of each site.

“It is always beneficial for artists to have the chance to exchange experiences and knowledge in programs like Simetría, particularly in settings that can at times seem far apart, like art and science, but which are perfectly connected in creations like this one. This is why I must congratulate Nicole, whose work has also won the acclaim of an institution as prestigious as MIT,” said Consuelo Valdés, Chile’s Minister of Cultures, Heritage, and the Arts.

Simetría is an artistic-scientific exchange program that invites a Chilean artist and a Swiss artist to conduct a joint residency at some of the world’s leading scientific research centers. The initiative is organized jointly by Arts at CERN, ALMA, ESO, the Corporación Chilena de Video y Artes Electrónicas, the New Media Department at Chile’s Ministry of Cultures, Heritage, and the Arts, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Schnitzer Prize comes with a 5,000 award and traditionally includes an exhibition of the work at the MIT Wiesner Student Art Gallery. Nonetheless, the social distancing required to limit the spread of COVID-19 means that a showcase of selected works will be made available online. The Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council supports the initiative, in the framework of the COINCIDENCIA – Swiss-South American Cultural Exchange program.

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