Below the concrete sidewalks and pathways between MIT Buildings 66 and E17 lives a labyrinth of tunnels home to a 200-foot-long wall of The Borderline Mural Project, an installment of more than 60 murals painted by MIT-affiliated artists. What once was one of MIT’s busiest underground corridors and destinations is now quietly abandoned in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Inspired by Corona Maison, MIT students from the Borderline club developed a virtual tunnel called Tunnel66 to reconnect the MIT community through a collaborative digital art project. “Since we can't be on campus, we want Tunnel66 to be a place where students can still create art, even while socially distant, so we can still create art together and bring it together on this virtual platform,” says Danny and Allan Gelman, seniors and co-animation chair for Borderline.
Tunnel66 reimagines the Borderline as a set of illustrated rooms connected by a long vertical ladder. Each room is decorated by a different member of the MIT community, and traversing the ladder represents each student climbing up to their own destinations, while being able to explore all the different communities on campus.
Students launched Tunnel66 just in time for this year’s CP*, a virtualized Campus Preview Weekend for all admitted first-year students. The goal was to showcase the vibrant art community that exists at MIT. “I was really pleasantly surprised by how alive the art scene is at MIT,” says Audrey Cui, an admitted MIT Class of 2024 student. “The general public's perception of MIT is usually super technical and that everyone's a hardcore math and science nerd, but I’m really glad that there's an art community I hope to join.”
Similar to the original 2-D mural installment on campus, students used a blend of art and technology to bring Tunnel66 to life as an interactive piece of art. Using the Artivive app, users can view a number of Tunnel66 murals through their phones’ cameras to activate digital animations for each room. Jenny Zhang, Danny Gelman, and Allan Gelman, co-animation chairs of Borderline, developed a little welcome message to the MIT Class of 2024 for this project.
An important goal for this project was to provide an inclusive space and opportunity to embody all of MIT. The hope is to draw people who wouldn’t necessarily have ever gotten involved with Borderline before. “It’s an opportunity for everyone to share their unique story, says Skyler Gordon, sophomore and pub chair of Borderline. “We really hope to see that. And we really hope to see all the stories of MIT.”
Nearly a year since the pandemic upended the day-to-day lives of the community and in-person instruction turned into virtual Zoom classes, students have gone above and beyond to create and nurture connections with one another