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The Fascinating World of Holograms

Exhibit devoted to a media that embraces art and science

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The Jeweled Net: Views of Contemporary Holography exhibit, MIT Museum, visual arts, entertainment, exhibition, hologram, holography

Anatomy Head, by Michael Bleyenberg, 2011

The Jeweled Net: Views of Contemporary Holography, a fascinating new show currently on view at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, embraces the intersection of art and science. The exhibit, featuring more than 20 holograms from around the world as well as several from the museum’s collection, was created in conjunction with the 9th International Symposium on Display Holography, held at MIT last month.

It’s no accident that this show is at the MIT Museum; it owns the largest and most comprehensive collection of holograms in the world.

Seth Riskin, manager of Emerging Technologies and Holography/Spatial Imaging Initiatives for the museum, says that holograms “represent how the human brain, and light information interact to create the experience of three-dimensional space.”

The exhibit offers a survey in state-of-the-art holography and includes work from display holographers from Germany, Italy, the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, and the United States. Artists were selected by a panel of experts. Informational plaques scattered throughout the exhibition describe the origin and development of display holography and offer scientific explanations for what appears to be magic.

At the entrance to the exhibit, an outstretched hand encrusted with jewels greets the viewer, glowing an eerie green. The hologram, titled Hand in Jewels, was created by artist G. Robert Schinella for a store display at Cartier’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City in 1972.

From there, viewers can learn about advances made in the field in the 1980s, when the MIT Spatial Imaging Group pioneered digital-age technological achievements in image-processing techniques, holographic printing, and new hologram formats. Don’t miss Cadillac Hubcap and Wheel by Stephen Benton, the inventor of the rainbow hologram, which uses white light rather than lasers to provide illumination. Benton designed the work with Michael Halle, Michael Klug, and John Underkoffler. The 3D wheel and hubcap virtually spring out of the frame. Upon closer inspection, a scene from the movie Diner can be seen reflected in the hubcap.

In Anatomy Head, German “light architect” Michael Bleyenberg infuses microscopic medical imagery into multi-exposure HOE (holographic optical elements) embedded between glass and mirror. The result is a vibrantly colored, arresting view of the human head.

The Jeweled Net: Views of Contemporary Holography, MIT Museum in Cambridge, holograms, visual arts, exhibit, museum

One of the most visually impressive pieces, Equanimity: The Diamond Queen is Rob Munday’s homage to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee this year. Munday says he chose holography as his preferred medium for this work because he wanted to depict the monarch in the most realistic manner possible. He integrated 205 high-resolution digital photographs into a holographic stereogram, which, when viewed, is eerily lifelike.

The exhibit’s holograms are engaging and interactive. Their full materialization depends on the viewer’s movement and position. Graphis, by Jacques Desbiens, unveils a panorama of art history to onlookers who walk its length. Other pieces, such as Light Leaves by Betsy Connors, fuse sculpture with hologram.

The exhibit is great for all ages: during a recent visit to the museum, squeals of “Cool!” and “Creepy!” could be heard from younger viewers. The Jeweled Net is the perfect fit for art and science lovers looking for something different this summer.

The Jeweled Net: Views of Contemporary Holography is on display at the MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge through September 28, 2013. The museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 7 p.m. on Thursday (July and August only). Admission is free for children under 5, MIT ID holders, and Cambridge Public Library Card holders (July and August only). Admission is $4 for students, youth under 18, and seniors, and $8.50 for adults. The museum is free from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the second Friday of each month and from 10 a.m. to noon on Sundays. To get there by public transportation, take the Red Line train to the Central Square stop. For more information about the exhibit, go here.

Erin Thibeau can be reached at ethibeau@bu.edu.

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