Action! Design over Time at The Museum of Modern Art

NEW YORK, — The Museum of Modern Art presents Action! Design over Time, a new installation of the contemporary section of The Philip Johnson Architecture and Design Galleries, beginning on February 5, 2010. Organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Patricia Juncosa-Vecchierini and Kate Carmody, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, the installation brings together some 85 examples from the collection that reveal the dynamic and evolving nature of objects, providing a deeper understanding of contemporary design.

Tomáš Gabzdil LibertínyObjects are not still, and yet design is often appreciated in terms of its static presence—both aesthetic and functional—in any given instant, without much consideration of the process of its making, trajectory in time, life cycle, or relationship with people. Some of the objects in the exhibition embody frozen moments in time, whether crafted by hand (like Ingo Maurer’s Porca Miseria! Chandelier (1994), which is made of broken dishes) or crystallized by a computer using a digital manufacturing machine (as with Ammar Eloueini’s CoReFab chair from 2006). Instead of a single moment, other featured objects capture entire life cycles: Christien Meindertsma’s book PIG 05049 (2004–06) tracks all 185 products made from a single pig, while Michele Gauler’s Digital Remains (2006) comprises urns containing the images, music, and documents from dead friends’ and relatives’ computers. Some examples focus on communication and interaction design, whose nature is inherently active and dynamic. These interfaces and visualizations interpret and render data over time—commercial air traffic in the United States (Aaron Koblin’s Flight Patterns, 2005), taxi traffic in San Francisco (Stamen Design’s Cabspotting: New Year’s Eve 2007, 2005–ongoing), or the editorial evolution of Wikipedia entries (Fernanda Bertini Viégas and Martin Wattenberg’s History Flow, 2003), for instance—in an elegant and efficient way.

The design firm Freedom Of Creation has taken rapid manufacturing into the realm of textiles. Neither woven nor traditionally sewn, the laser-sintered textiles (2000–06) in the exhibition are built three-dimensionally, layer by layer. Because they are designed on a computer, their threads digitally interwoven, they are easily customizable in various patterns, sizes, and colors.

The exhibition also includes The Honeycomb Vase ―Made by Bees‖ (2006) by Tomáš Gabzdil Libertiny of Studio Libertiny. It was produced through what the artist has called ―slow manufacturing‖: Libertiny constructed a vase-shaped beehive scaffold (to be removed at the end of the process) and then let nature take its course. Forty thousand bees built the vase, layer by layer, in one week.

As technology advances, designers are taking a closer look at future human interaction with robots. The exhibition includes Technological Dreams Series: no 1, Robots (2007), by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, a project that explores mankind’s future interaction with robots. The designers look at robots as needy, moody characters with their own distinct personalities and quirks, considering the possibility that devices of the future might not be designed for specific tasks but instead might be given jobs based on behaviors and qualities that emerge over time.

Commissioned for the Museum’s exhibition Workspheres in 2000, My Soft Office is a series of products Hella Jongerius conceived in response to the changing dynamic of work life. Her designs are often characterized by their seamless combination of apparent opposites, such as old and new, fast and slow, high- and low- tech, or, in this case, family life and work life. For My Soft Office Jongerius has redesigned traditional domestic objects—such as a TV dinner tray—so they can accommodate both work and family use.
Some objects are designed to grow from a ―starter‖—often an algorithm fueled by software—their growth interrupted by the designer at a designated moment to be rendered in a visual or physical form. Neri Oxman, an architect, established Materialecology(2007) to undertake interdisciplinary research in the intersection between architecture, engineering, computation, and ecology; she is represented in the exhibition by four recent speculations about the intrinsic qualities of natural structures indicate a direction for future applied research.

The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019, (212) 708-9400

Image: Tomáš Gabzdil Libertíny, The Honeycomb Vase “Made by Bees”. 2006. Beeswax. Manufactured by Studio Libertíny, The Netherlands. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Aaron and Betty Lee Stern Foundation.