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Etching Sand Castles On A Single Grain Of Sand

  • August 4, 2014
  • By Anya Ventura     
MIT alum Marcelo Coelho and visual artist Vik Muniz collaborate on a very small scale.


MIT Media Lab alum Marcelo Coelho and artist Vik Muniz’s collaboration began in 2012 when Coelho brought Muniz to campus through MIT’s Visiting Artist program. Coelho first discovered Muniz’s art in the course of his research. “I was doing my work on materials and human-computer interaction, researching how people use materials and make meaning from them,” he recalls. In doing so, he came across Muniz’s images, crafted from unlikely, everyday substances, such as dust, chocolate, and even industrial garbage.

At MIT, Coelho worked with Muniz to etch a millimeter-wide image of a sand castle on a grain of sand through the use of a focused ion beam and scanning electron microscope. The resulting prints were enlarged to debut in a comprehensive exhibition of Muniz’s work at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The experience, as it turned out, would produce a long-lasting collaboration. “Vik is really inspired by MIT,” Coelho says, “and that’s how the true collaborations ended up happening. In some ways, he could have equally been a scientist. He’s incredibly curious and being at MIT through the Visiting Artist program allowed him to exercise that side of his thinking.”