I read about Paola Antonelli first in Fast Company. Since joining MoMA 10 years ago, Paola Antonelli has had to compete with Picasso and Magritte to capture people's attention. Her shows have done just that.
From exhibitions on the future of the workplace to her current show on "humble" masterpieces such as Post-It notes and Bic pens, Antonelli continues to demonstrate to the world the scope and dynamism of design. Linda Tischler dubbed Antonelli Paola the Populist. According to Tischler,
The museum champions an innovative spirit, the potential for cultural impact, aesthetic significance, and an affinity with an evolving idea of modern design. Period.
Antonelli's job touches upon aspects of a job I'd like to have. And I am not bashful in making claims to a shared origin with design pretty much embedded in my DNA.
Apart from scouting objects for the museum's collection, Antonelli curates MoMA special exhibits, distilling the impressions and discoveries she amasses over a year's worth of travel, reading, Web surfing, shopping, conferences, and meetings with designers worldwide. In a typical year, she logs eight serious trips, not counting jaunts within the United States.
Form and Function Blend
Would your product be featured in a MoMA special exhibit? That to me is functional design excellence. Antonelli's new exhibit "Design and the Elastic Mind," opened February 24. It explores design's response to the dramatic changes in scale that we must navigate every day. John Seely Brown has called "thinkering." As an aside, every time I see a creative and descriptive title like Seely Brown's I am reminded of the rather conservative nature of mine.
The exhibit presents a shift in perspective, from the view of an entire city on Google Earth to a street map on our mobile phone, from intimate, one-on-one conversations to the vast reach of social networks. Virtual things, like interfaces, and real things, like chairs. I started this journey from real to digital with Designing Business by Clement Mok many years ago.
In this new "thinkering" culture
experimentation is guided by engagement with the world and open, constructive collaboration with colleagues and other specialists. Whether in the form of origami, nanofacture, or growth and aggregation, thinkering gives shape to the embryonic dialogue between design and science.
The exhibit seeks to address the change in how we experience time, space, matter, and identity. If you listen to this podcast by Core77, you'll be able to hear Paola Antonelli's lovely Italian accent while she lays out her vision. I learned about the interview via Influx Technology [hat tip to Seni Thomas].
Reporters are Never Objective
Instead, they report a trajectory, said Antonelli in her interview. What she noticed that sparked the collaboration for this exhibit was that designers and scientists where both in need of entering the modern conversation. The exhibit lets you experience people and objects, design for debate, visualization, and thought to action. All together now, explores the contemporary relationship between individuals and the collective sphere.
There's also a space dedicated to super nature. Do a deep dive with the online exhibit and join us for a field trip at MoMA during Blogger Social 2008. Most quotable: You cannot buy passion, your strength is your vulnerability, when something is in the public domain you don't have to possess it anymore. Join us at MoMA to design a conversation on the elastic mind on April 4 at 4:30PM.
[Also see Antonelli's TED talk on Treating Design as Art.]
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Please note: the Museum will be open to the public on Tuesday, March 18.
Getting to MoMA
MoMA is located at 11 West Fifty-third Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues.