Mel Chin was born in Houston to Chinese parents in 1951, the first of his family born in the United States, and was reared in a predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhood. He worked in his family’s grocery store, and began making art at an early age. Though he is classically trained, Chin’s art, which is both analytical and poetic, evades easy classification. Alchemy, botany, and ecology are but a few of the disciplines that intersect in his work. He insinuates art into unlikely places, including destroyed homes, toxic landfills, and even popular television, investigating how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility. Unconventional and politically engaged, his projects also challenge the idea of the artist as the exclusive creative force behind an artwork. “The survival of my own ideas may not be as important as a condition I might create for others’ ideas to be realized,” says Chin, who often enlists entire neighborhoods or groups of students in creative partnerships. In “KNOWMAD,” Chin worked with software engineers to create a video game based on rug patterns of nomadic peoples facing persecution. Chin also promotes “works of art” that have the ultimate effect of benefiting science or rejuvenating the economies of inner-city neighborhoods. In “Revival Field,” Chin worked with scientists to create sculpted gardens of hyperaccumulators—plants that can draw heavy metals from contaminated areas—in some of the most polluted sites in the world. Chin received a BA from Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1975, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988 and 1990. He lives in North Carolina.
Ntone Edjabe is a Camerounian-born Cape Town-based writer, DJ, musician, and founder and editor of Chimurenga, a pan African publication of writing, art and politics has been in print since March 2002.
Moises Gonzales is a planner who works in Sandoval County north of Albuquerque, N.M. He grew up in one of the many land grant communities (known as ejidos) of New Mexico. Gonzales spent the early part of his career dealing with rural issues and the preservation of cultural amenities and traditions in his and similar small settlements with strong ethnic connections to the earliest history of the state. More recently, he has been focusing on urban planning issues, out of the conviction that if the city of Albuquerque becomes a more vibrant and exciting place, fewer people will want to flee to the sprawling suburbs. Gov. Bill Richardson has appointed Gonzales to the “Our Futures, Our Communities” Task Force on Smart Growth. Gonzales’ work in Sandoval County has focused on new zoning and planning regimens that will encourage increased density within the city of Albuquerque and more concentration of development around transit nodes. At the GSD, Gonzales will study patterns of urban development around the world, with a concentration on methods others have used to protect fragile natural landscapes and limit sprawl.
Benjamin Mako Hill is a technologist, programmer, and free software and free culture activist. Hill is the first author of The Official Ubuntu Book (2006) and the Debian GNU/Linux 3.x Bible (2005) and worked on several activist art projects including RubyVote and Selectricity, an online voting machine for the masses, funded by the MTV/Cisco’s Digital Incubator initiative, aimed at helping the public make decisions more easily and promoting an intuitive understanding of alternative voting methods. Hill is on the Board of Directors of the Free Software Foundation, serves on the Project Leader Team at the Debian GNU/Linux Project, the Community Council governance board at Ubuntu Foundation, and the advisory board for Wikimedia Foundation. Hill is a graduate of the MIT Media Lab where he studied in the Computing Culture Group. Hill continues to take an active role in the free software community at MIT through his work with the Center for the Future of Civic Media (C4FCM).
Tad Hirsch is a researcher and PhD candidate in the Smart Cities Group at MIT’s Media Lab, where his work focuses on the intersections between art, activism, and technology. He has worked with Intel’s People and Practices Research Group, Motorola’s Advanced Concepts Group and the Interaction Design Studio at Carnegie Mellon University, and has several years experience in the nonprofit sector. Tad is also a frequent collaborator with the Institute for Applied Autonomy, an award-winning arts collective that exhibits throughout the United States and Europe. He publishes and lectures widely on a variety of topics concerning social aspects of technology, and has received several prestigious commissions and awards. Tad holds degrees from Vassar College, Carnegie Mellon University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Alfredo Jaar is an artist, architect and filmmaker who lives and works in New York. His work has been shown extensively around the world. He has participated in the Venice, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Sydney, Istanbul and Kwangju Biennales as well as in the Documenta in Kassel. Major solo exhibitions include the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Whitechapel in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985 and was chosen as a Mac Arthur Fellow in 2000.
Amar Kanwar is the recipient of the 1st Edvard Munch Award for Contemporary Art from Norway, an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, Maine College of Art, USA, the MacArthur Fellowship in India, the Golden Gate Award (San Francisco International Film Festival); Golden Conch (Mumbai International Film Festival); The First Prize (Torino International Film Festival,Italy); Jury’s Award (Film South Asia,Nepal), Grand Prix at EnviroFilm, Slovak Republic and the Golden Tree at the 1st National Environment and Wildlife Film Festival Vatavaran, Delhi. A retrospective of his films was held at the Dhaka International Short Film Festival in 2005. His films have been screened in small rural film festivals as well as international film festivals and museums like the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the National Museum in Oslo, Norway. He participated in Documenta 11 (2002) and Documenta 12 (2007), Kassel, Germany.
Thierry Nlandu is Professor at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Kinshasa, Congo. He teaches Anglo-American literature. He is a dramatist and a sociopolitical activist. Presently, he is the Executive Secretary of the Provincial Government in Kinshasa, DRC.
Marjetica Potrc is a Ljubljana-based artist and architect. Her work has been featured in exhibitions throughout Europe and the Americas, including the Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil (1996 and 2006); Skulptur. Projekte in Muenster, Germany (1997); The Structure of Survival at the Venice Biennial (2003); and FarSites at the San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA (2005). She has had solo shows at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2001); the Max Protetch Gallery, New York (2002 and 2005); the Nordenhake Gallery in Berlin (2003 and 2007); the PBICA in Lake Worth, Florida (2003); the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts (2004); the Portikus in Frankfurt/Main, Germany (2006); and The Curve, Barbican Art Galleries in London (2007). In addition, Potrc has been the recipient of numerous awards, including grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (in 1993 and 1999); the Hugo Boss Prize 2000, administered by the Guggenheim Museum; a Caracas Case Project Fellowship from the Federal Cultural Foundation, Germany, and the Caracas Urban Think Tank, Venezuela (2002); the AICA-USA Second-Place Award for Best Architecture or Design Show (2004); and the Vera List Center for Arts and Politics Fellowship at The New School in New York (2007).
Balakrishnan Rajagopal is Associate Professor of Law and Development and Director of the Program on Human Rights and Justice at MIT. A previous member of the Executive Council and Executive Committee of the American Society of International Law, he is currently on the Asia Advisory Board of Human Rights Watch, the International Advisory Committee of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and the International Rights Advocates. He served for many years with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, and has consulted with UN agencies, international organizations and leading NGOs on human rights and international legal issues. He is the author of International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements and Third World Resistance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003; Foundation Press, South Asia, 2005; Colombia, Spanish, 2005; 2nd edition forthcoming in 2008), and Reshaping Justice: International Law and the Third World (Routledge, co-editor, 2008). He is currently completing a book manuscript on legalization of socio-economic rights in the Global South. He has also published widely in law and other academic journals and in daily media including the Boston Globe, the Hindu, Washington Post and the Nation.
Trebor Scholz is an East Berlin-born media theorist and artist based in New York. As co-editor of The Art of Free Cooperation (Autonomedia, 2007) he has written numerous book chapters and essays for journals about Internet culture. He has lectured in the U.S. and internationally at dozens of festivals and conferences. Experimenting with discursive formats, Scholz organized several large-scale conferences including Share Widely and Kosova: Carnival in the Eye of the Storm. As founder of the Institute for Distributed creativity (iDC), he is associate professor in the Department of Media Study at the State University of New York, Buffalo. Scholz‚ artwork has been exhibited at the Venice Biennial (with Martha Rosler/ The Fleas) and the Sao Paulo Biennial.
David Small completed his Ph.D. at the MIT Media Laboratory in 1999, where his research focused on the display and manipulation of complex visual information. He began his studies of dynamic typography in three dimensional landscapes as a student of Muriel Cooper, founder of the Visible Language Workshop at MIT and later joined the Aesthetics and Computation Group under the direction of John Maeda. His thesis, Rethinking the Book, examined how digital media, in particular the use of three-dimensional and dynamic typography, will change the way designers approach large bodies of information. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Documenta 11, the Centre Pompidou, and the Copper-Hewitt. He is the principal and founder of Small Design Firm.
John Tirman, a political scientist, is author, or coauthor and editor, of ten books on international affairs, including, most recently, Terror, Insurgency, and the State (Penn Press, 2007), The Fallacy of Star Wars (1984), the first important critique of strategic defense, and Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America’s Arms Trade (1997). He has published more than 100 articles in periodicals such as the New York Times, Washington Post, World Policy Journal, The Nation, Wall Street Journal, and International Herald Tribune. Before coming to MIT in 2004, he was program director of the Social Science Research Council. From 1986 to 1999, Tirman was executive director of the Winston Foundation for World Peace, a leading funder of work to prevent nuclear war and promote non-violent resolution of conflict. In 1999-2000, Tirman was Fulbright Senior Scholar in Cyprus and produced an educational Web site on the conflict.
Mark Tribe is an internationally renowned artist and curator whose interests include art, technology, and politics. He is the co-author, with Reena Jana, of “New Media Art” (Taschen, 2006). His art work has been exhibited at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, and Gigantic Art Space in New York City. He has organized curatorial projects for the New Museum of Contemporary Art, MASS MoCA, and inSite_05. As the founder of Rhizome.org (in 1996), an online resource for new media artists, he now chairs the Rhizome.org board of directors. Tribe received his MFA in Visual Art from the University of California, San Diego in 1994 and a BA in Visual Art from Brown University in 1990, where he currently serves as Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media Studies. The focus of his teaching is on digital art, curating, open-source culture, radical media, and surveillance. He splits his time between Providence and New York City.
Kayvan Zainabadi is the former president of the Amnesty International chapter of MIT, and co-founder of MIT-STAND, an anti-genocide student coalition, and a 5th year graduate student in biology at MIT. Last year, Kayvan led a successful campaign that led MIT to divest its investments in companies that were funding the genocide in Darfur. Kayvan has been a lead organizer of fundraising drives on campus that have raised over $8,000 for humanitarian relief for the victims of Darfur.