When it comes to design in galleries I’m of two minds. On one side design becomes something tangible when it’s in it’s natural environment. Of course all design is not something that you can hold in your hand which makes it debatable how you express ideas as part of the process before it becomes a “thing”. On the other side galleries are a neutral environment that allows for exploration of concepts that in theory do not have the same financial pressures that a design would have in the marketplace.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect with MoMA’s Design and Elastic Mind Exhibition. I didn’t do a lot of background research before I stepped in. My simplified over view of the exhibit was that MoMA wanted to attempt to show examples where science and design are coming together to create new things and in turn change the world (for the better). Anyone that has hung out on a design blog will no doubt recognize a number of the objects on display. A crowd favourite was the video of Sketch Furniture by the Swedish design firm Front Design. There was a number of samples of the furniture. It was something that I appreciated seeing in three dimensions after their video had been release on the net. Looking at the objects in person it made me wonder how strong they actually were. Could you sit on a chair and not worry about it breaking? I also wondered how heavy it was too – was the plastic lightweight? For all the things that were familiar there were things that I had no background on. The section on nano design became a blur to me. The images made interesting patterns but I had nothing to compare it with in my daily environment. I felt that maybe for others that were going through other parts of the exhibit may have felt the same way about other things. If there was one thing missing from the exhibition, it might have been to create some context for how the products would exist in the outside world more explicitly.
One of the more important concepts that I think a lot of people may have missed with a passing glance was the Dressing the Meat of Tomorrow by James King. I was first introduced to the idea of “disembodied cuisine” at a talk with Anthony Dunne from the Royal College of Art last year. It’s essentially meat that is created in a laboratory. Compared with the energy and waste that real livestock produce, this could be a convenient solution via sustainability. Of course if this meat can be created, what’s the aesthetics of the form and flavour(s)? As an opportunity to create new forms I find the idea quite compelling. I expect to see more of this visual experimentation in the upcoming years.
For anyone that is interested in visualization there’s a number of examples. There’s both examples that you can see on the net like Flight Patterns while others were created specifically for this exhibition. Another talk I saw more recently was with Jonathan Harris who talked about “I Want you to want me” which MoMA commisioned. It’s an interactive piece in the true sense in that you press the screen to see an exploration of Web dating. Another project that I think has a lot of potential but isn’t entirely understandable was NYTE. The display was quite high so I couldn’t exactly tell what was going on – it’s probably better to check out the site at www.senseable.mit.edu/nyte before visiting.
There’s a lot to take in with this exhibition and it became apparent that I did miss some stuff after looking the Design and Elastic Mind Exhibition website at moma.org/exhibitions/2008/elasticmind/ and the book that I bought. Design and Elastic Mind is on till May so I suspect that there will be a lot written on the topic of Design and Science merging in the context of this exhibit. That’s a good thing because I don’t think that topic is going to be disappearing anytime soon.