The Cooper Hewitt’s Survey of Contemporary Design Trends toward Climate-Change Adaptation, Algorithms, and Global Collaboration
The latest in innovative design is on view at the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, the museum’s fifth installment of the exhibition, featuring more than 250 works that run the gamut from fashion to typography, domestic objects to genetically engineered creatures. One first-floor gallery gives off a complex, earthy odor—notes of grass, wet leaves, and a hint of horse manure. At a preview of the show, scent artist
Tolaas was commissioned by the museum to create Smell (2016), a scent based on Central Park, and the smells of a fall evening in Sheep Meadow fill the Cooper Hewitt’s arched hallway. Tolaas collected aromas from multiple locations in the park in the morning, afternoon, and evening. This olfactory information was then stored using nanotechnology, allowing it to be applied to the museum walls in tiny capsules activated by human touch. “Imagine breaking eggshells,” she says. The project’s effect is complex, strange, and transporting.
This expanded notion of beauty—one that extends beyond stylish ornament or pleasing geometry, to the unseen, the grotesque, and the mathematical—is at the heart of the triennial, organized by senior curator Ellen Lupton and assistant curator Andrea Lipps. The work of 63 designers is arranged according to seven broad themes that include “Intricate,” “Transgressive,” and “Emergent,” but beyond these categories the exhibition shows us a design landscape trending increasingly towards responsiveness, collaboration, and digital intervention.
An engagement with responsiveness extends from scent to environment via architect
Installation view of the PolyThread knitted textile pavilion, designed be Jenny E. Sabin, commissioned for "Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial." Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016
Also responsive to changes in the environment, a leather jacket from
The product of an entirely different kind of alchemy,
In a recent interview, Simon and Niki Haas expressed frustration at what they see as art-world bias—that articles and press releases often re-cast the women of Monkeybiz as “fabricators” rather than full partners in the creative process. The beauty and beguiling strangeness of Afreaks, however, springs from the synthesis of the artisans’ intricate beadwork and Simon Haas’s complex beading algorithm, sketches of which are displayed alongside the sculptures.
In fact, algorithms seem to have infiltrated every category of the exhibition.
This was the product of a great deal of collaboration with programmers, designers Per Emanuelsson and Bastian Bischoff explain, and while this version with its 288 clock faces is a prototype, they’ve created other versions of the piece for the collectors market. In perhaps the perfect blend of responsiveness, collaboration, and digital intervention, if you can’t yet afford A Million Times, you can download the app from the Apple store.
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