Talk to Her: A Conversation with Paola Antonelli


SMSlingshot, Christian Zöllner, Patrick Tobias Fischer, Thilo Hoffmann, and Sebastian Piatza of VR/Urban (2009) - Photo by VR/Urban

Talk to Me: Design and Communication between People and Objects is an ambitious exhibition at MoMA curated by Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design, Paola Antonelli. Focused on new modes of communication and interactivity, the exhibition captures over 194 works from an international group of aritsts and designers. The space is divided into five themes and includes work ranging from Jason Rohrer's minimalist game Passage (2008) to Sputniko!'s role-reversing Menstruation Machine-Takashki's Take (2010). After touring Talk to Me on a rainy weekday with Paola, we met in her office to discuss the importance of collaboration, QR tags, and speculate about the future.

Jason Huff: You have curated numerous shows on the frontier of design and its intersection with technology among other fields. Design and the Elastic Mind, from 2008, stands out because of it’s timing within the latest rush of social technology and interaction that has arguably become the norm over the past few years. What makes Talk to Me distinct in this lineage of exhibitions?

Paola Antonelli: In Design and the Elastic Mind, the communication between people was just one of the facets as it was about design and science in general. Therefore, there was a really big presence of synthetic biology, for instance, or nanotechnology, nanophysics, robotics. There were a lot of different topics involved. Thinking back, pieces like Google Earth, Google Moon and Google Mars from Design and the Elastic Mind would have fit in [Talk to Me]. So could have the One Laptop per Child project.

But it really was about designers working with scientists and scientists working with designers. At that time, the conclusion was that designers and scientists worked very well together because they both had ambitions to occupy a different position in society and in culture. Designers want to be taken more seriously; they are tired of being considered “prettifiers” that go straight to the House and Home section of the New York Times, and scientists want to be considered less lofty, less abstract, disengaged, and disinterested in human beings....