Museum Exhibit Highlights the Art of Interactive Design
Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, NY.
CREDIT: Robin Holland
NEW YORK - When Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art, decided that the MoMA needed to present an exhibit on design and communication, she didn't know where to start. To help her and her staff flesh out their project, Antonelli created a website through which she could solicit suggestions. Little did she realize that the site itself would eventually fall under the umbrella of her exhibit's thesis.
The finished exhibit, named "Talk to Me," looks at how modern design takes a communication function for granted in almost all devices. And with much of that communication originating in, or moving through, the Internet, the exhibit also details how modern devices have started breaking down the barrier between online and offline life.
[Read our exhibit review: In New MoMA Exhibit, Borders Between Internet, Real World Blur ]
InnovationNewsDaily recently spoke with Antonelli about the influence of software on design, why connection leads to understanding, and about how an MTA Metrocard vending machine qualifies as a work of art.
InnovationNewsDaily: Since every digital device communicates with something in some way, how did you decide what to include in this exhibit?
Paola Antonelli: In every show we do, we start with a very wide net. In this case, we started with a blog. We wanted to widen the net, and be as transparent as possible. However, we deliberately made the blog very straight forward. It's what design and the exhibition are about: making tech transparent.
Once we have ideas, one of the first filters is aesthetic intention. It doesn't have to look good, you can be punk, but you have to make a statement. We choose objects that say something, and it's a very organic process.
InnovationNewsDaily: Why did you choose to include functional objects, like the MTA Metrocard vending machine, alongside objects deliberately created to be art?
Antonelli: It is important to exploit that you are in a museum, to give the visitors an example of daily life to show how design is all around them. [The MTA machine] is fantastic. It performs its function so well, it's graffiti-proof, it's sturdy, but it is also so well designed. The primary colors, it's so inviting. It's like a burly but friendly MTA worker. It's so New York City. It's not London. It's not Boston. It's New York because its classic and up to date at the same time. It's straight out of Gotham.
InnovationNewsDaily: The exhibit has a very urban bent, with very few pieces referring to, or working in, rural areas. Do you mean to say that design is inherently urban?
Antonelli: Whenever you do something, it reflects your own self. So, it's me, it's not planned. We didn't think of the country, but there are a lot of people working on great stuff that has a rural component. Great design related to land use, to maps.
InnovationNewsDaily: Was there anything you wanted to include in the exhibit, but couldn't?
Antonelli: There were two video games by Future Farmers that we wanted, but the interface wouldn't work with the exhibit. Also, we wanted to get Sim City, but we couldn't find anyone who could grant us the rights. I guess EA is just too big now.
InnovationNewsDaily: So you believe video games belong in museums ? There has been some controversy about this recently, with the Library of Congress finally beginning to accept games.
Antonelli: Absolutely. It makes perfect sense. They should have Pac-Man, they should have Tetris. They should Grand Theft Auto. Grand Theft Auto is a masterpiece. It's a masterpiece of progress, a masterpiece of cinematography, it belongs in a museum.
InnovationNewsDaily: With digital technology forcing designers to consider both physical design and programming, do you believe that software design has begun influencing other areas of design?
Antonelli: One of the basic ideas of the exhibit is that today, a designer can't just do form and function . Designers must also be script writers, designing the conversation about their piece. Software designers already think of that, but now everyone else is catching up.