"Design and the Elastic Mind" @ MoMA

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Adaptability has always been a distinctive feature of human intelligence, but as MoMA's new exhibition "Design and the Elastic Mind" claims, recent developments in science call for faster -- and, indeed, more elastic -- modes of social response. Beginning with a display on nanostructures and concluding with one about social and global networks, this ambitious exhibition examines the various scales on which our contemporary lives are led, and the way design can translate technological innovation into objects of everyday use. Aranda/Lasch's Rules of Six (2007), for example, foregrounds nanodesign's potential for self-assembly with a wall relief and images of nanostructures. Developed through simple rules and interactions, these structures offer provisional cases for the role such generative, modular organization may hold in the realms of architecture and design. On the human scale, Emili Padros for the emiliana design studio's NSS: Non-Stop Shoes (1999) is one of many projects to consider micro-solutions to energy conservation: high-top sneakers that store energy over their use to power lightbulbs and small, domestic appliances. Experiments on the social scale frequently focus on the interaction of individual users with a larger (often virtual) public, as with I Want You To Want Me (2007-ongoing), Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar's condensation of internet dating networks into an interactive, flatscreen display, and Fernanda Bertini Viegas, Martin Wattenberg and IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center's History Flow (2003), which visualizes user-generated revisions to Wikipedia topics. As Senior Curator Paola Antonelli points out in an essay accompanying the exhibition, the ability of virtual users to "break the temporal rhythms imposed by society in order to customize and personalize them" is one of the many ways that we are tackling technological novelty with a spirit of agency and play. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Fernanda Bertini Viegas, Martin Wattenberg and ...

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Ways of Seeing

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Similar to photography, the 19th century invention of photogammetry was used to discern empirical truths (measurements, altitudes, etc) about objects. Given his interest in the elusive relationship between observation and knowledge, it is no surprise that prolific German artist Harun Farocki would take photogammetry as an entry point for one of his most well-known films Images of the World and The Inscription of War (1989), which explores the military's use of imaging technologies during World War II. One particularly compelling narrative in the film points to how Allied analysts, while studying aerial photographs of Nazi Germany for munitions and factories locations, failed to locate the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Farocki's most recent work, the 12-channel video installation Deep Play (2007) calls upon a range of media forms to dismantle the elaborate spectacle of televised sport- specifically the 2006 World Cup Finals between France and Italy. The piece plays with our anticipation of the "big event" of the game which was, of course, not matchpoint but rather Zinedine Zidane's infamous head butt of Guiseppe Materazzi. The installation juxtaposes numerous views of this memorable game including live feed footage of the game, 3D models of the players, statistical analysis of players' speed and positions, surveillance feeds from inside and outside Berlin's Olympic Stadium and images of the editors and analysts responsible for collating the multiple streams into a single broadcast. Deep Play asks how these multiple points of view offer a nuanced entry into the event and how our expectations can blind us to all other elements of the game. Like Farocki's other works, Deep Play elegantly leads us to a deeper understanding of the mechanisms and assumptions that underlie the way we see and how this leads to our understanding of the world. The show is ...

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Fact Checker

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Hot on the heels of the Iowa Caucus, with the 2008 US Presidential election race accelerating, artist Jon Winet is releasing a tool that can help educate people on the issues at stake. The Electoral College Widget is an easy-to-install widget for the Mac Dashboard and features digital flash cards with statistics and crucial info related to each of the contenders and issues such as poverty, health care, and religious discrimination. Given that the device is only for OS-X users, Winet and collaborator Craig Dietrich are also working on a cross-platform Ticker that will stream text, photos, audio, and other election-related content. Meanwhile, the widget is just one component of The Electoral College, a "year-long media project focusing on the U.S. Presidential elections and democracy in America." Winet is no stranger to covering elections and other political spectacles and aspects of The Electoral College grow nicely out of his Goal! 2006 project, which leveraged the popularity of the World Cup games to inform readers about under-reported issues important in the homelands of the athletes. In the next year, Winet will work together with community organizations and local activists to operate The Electoral College as "a hybrid new media art/ journalism project that recognizes the unique moment in history of this election, and the opportunities and challenges presented for democratic, civic engagement." The site will be a 24/7 headquarters for updates on the elections and critical discourse, beginning with the publication of an essay by D.L. Pughe, entitled "When Luck Grows Hard: Real Life in the Fiction Capital of America." Check out Winet's YouTube channel for videos related to the project and stay-tuned for Facebook apps and SMS subscription services. Meanwhile, the Electoral College Widget can be downloaded here. - Marisa Olson

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