Empathy Suits

First Rough Sketches of Project I

Amelia Carver

Possible Titles:

"Your Mind Isn't What You Think"

"Enforcing Equilibrium"

"It Weighs On Your Mind"



Laura Schmitz

Empathy Suits - Creative Technologies for Cultural Encounters

Saeed Arida and 2 OthersAzra Aksamija
Laura Schmitz

4.301 Introduction to Visual Art

12 UNITS T/Th 2 PM- 5 PM

Professor:   Dr. Azra Akšamija (azra@mit.edu)

Teaching Assistant:  Laura Renee Schmitz (lschmitz@mit.edu)

Technical instructors:                                         

Digital imaging lab: Madeleine Gallagher (madgala@ mit.edu)

Metal and wood workshop: Seth Cimarron Avecilla (sethcim@mit.edu)

Location: E15-207 and E14-251G

20 Ames Street

Cambridge, MA 02139

Office Hours (Professor Azra Akšamija) : Tuesdays 11:00 AM - 12:00PM and 1:30PM-2:30PM 

Office: E15-231; Tel. (617) 324-4488

TA Office Hours: TBA


This course is an introduction to artistic practice and critical visual thinking.  The WS 2014 version of the course examines the potency of art to facilitate a critical response to cultural conflicts and provide for cultural encounters through creative technologies.  This topic will be explored though theoretical readings and historical contextualization, analysis of artworks and artistic practices related to the topic, as well as hands-on work. Through a series of three studio-based projects students are lead through various stages of conceptual development, while also learning about materials and techniques.



Body Extension, involving sculptural, architectural, or corporeal art themed "Empathetic Headwear"
Shaping Time, involving video and sound art to be created around the theme "Encounter"
Made Public, involving projects as site interventions and strategies for working in public and themed "Empathy Machine"

With the first project, we will study how one's cultural identity is communicated or perceived in one to one communication on the scale of the body.  With the second project, students will be working in groups of two and explore the notion of an "encounter" in theoretical and abstract terms, in one to many scale of communication.  Finally, with our third project we will be working in larger groups to investigate the relationship between technology and social/cultural connectivity.

Lectures, screenings, guest presentations, field trips and readings supplement studio practice, providing an index to the historical, cultural and environmental forces that affect both the development of an artistic vision and the reception of a work of art. Each of the three assigned projects concludes with a final presentation and a critical discussion engaging the course participants.  A minimum of six hours per week outside class work is expected.  Students from all disciplines are encouraged and welcome to enroll.



For news, reading materials, and updated syllabus please regularly refer to the class website on Stellar.








The course meets twice a week for 3 hrs each session for a total of 12 units of credit.  A minimum of six hours per week outside class work is expected. There will be 3 studio projects and 2 technical exercises that must be completed for the course. You are required to prepare a written 1-page statement for each project. Readings are regularly assigned to provide a historical and theoretical framework for each studio project and will be discussed in class.  Students are expected to keep a journal throughout the semester and upload scans weekly to class blog, which include a summary of accomplishments for the week, challenges encountered, preparation for next week and any accompanying sketches. 



Regular and on-time attendance is required for all class sessions and reviews. If you miss a class due to health reasons, please inform the TA as soon as possible.  If you need to miss a class, please inform the TA ahead of time and provide a document for excuse. It is your responsibility to catch up on missed content through TA, instructor, or fellow students.  All class work and assignments must be completed on time. Unexcused absences and repeated tardiness will automatically lower a grade by 1/2 of a letter grade.



No Food or Drink in lab facilities. The lab facilities need to be cleaned after used and left in the condition you found them. In the woodshop, please wear adequate clothing and protection as informed by Seth Avecilla.



Grading will be based on: Conceptual development (20%), Execution of individual projects (20%), Class participation (20%), Personal investment and commitment to your work (20%), Demonstrated growth over the course of the semester (20%). Completion of all projects is required for a passing grade, as is regular attendance.



I allow the use of laptops and tablets only for the purpose of class work (i.e. note-taking, presentations or research), but not during class discussions and peer presentations. The use of cellphones (regardless if calling, surfing or texting) during class time is not allowed.



The Writing and Communication Center (12-132) offers free one-on-one professional advice from lecturers who are published writers about all types of academic, creative, and professional writing and about all aspects of oral presentations. Go to http://writing.mit.edu/wcc and click on "Appointments." The Center's core hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; evening hours vary by semester--check the online scheduler for up-to-date hours.



E15-207                                Our classroom, 20 Ames Street, 2nd floor            

E14-251G                            Our workshop space, 75 Amherst Street (# Ames St.), 2nd floor

E15 - Cube                           The performance space in the basement of E15

E15-IEL                                 Digital Imaging lab in the basement of in the basement of E15