Do not attempt to see Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit on a Friday night. It may be your custom to take advantage of MoMA’s pay-what-you-can policy (thrifty!), or to celebrate the week’s end with a dose of high culture (classy!). But don’t do it. You’ll spend a slow, sweaty hour bumping up against every yokel with two nickels who has spent the last thirty minutes proclaiming the exhaustion of her feet. Pony up the money during the week. It’s worth it to let your inner scientist take all the space-time she needs.
Design and the Elastic Mind should overwhelm you — but in a good way.
This exhibit, on view now, is not exactly an art show, although it contains quite a few pretty pictures. And it’s not exactly a museum show, although you’ll no doubt learn something. It’s more of a three-dimensional catalogue of the future, as seen by scientists and designers.
Entries run the gamut from exquisite objects, such as the translucent resin forms of the “Cartesian Wax from the Materialecology Project,” to comic gadgetry, like the “Accessories for a Lonely Man,” devices which simulate the annoying habits of a live-in partner. Others are just bizarre. (I’m thinking of you, Typosperm!)
Half the fun of the show comes from the magnitude of items on display, and the creative way in which they’re arranged. Screens dangle from the ceiling; photographs adhere to the floor. Enter one room and you find a black rectangle filled with text. It’s a data analysis tool that maps every sentence of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Turn another corner and you see a wall of opaque white shapes sculpted by lasers from vats of liquid.
Then walk in a circle while staring at a radioactive green, tornado-shaped mesh tree; its embedded solar cells respond to movement.
However, the other half of the show takes place on the wall plaques. Although the objects fascinate on a visual level, they don’t speak for themselves. To catch the jokes, to decode the science, to stretch your elastic mind as far as it will go, you have to read the accompanying text. Which is not a bad thing. Unless it’s Friday night.
So don’t slack off. Cancel your appointments this Wednesday afternoon and let MoMA stretch your elastic mind.