Noam Chomsky argues that late capitalism is about using surplus value to create products which we don't really need that clutter and confuse our lives. What would he think of "Design and the Elastic Mind," hot curator Paola Antonelli's new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art?
Paola was the people's choice at the opening Tuesday night, where hundreds of geeks and the people who date them waited for an hour in line, extending down MoMA's escalators, to get up to the sixth floor and ogle an exhibition that resembles a trade show for security firms and would-be secret agents at your local convention center. Dan Graham and Richard Meier were among those imagining the near future of nerdvana, which is already here.
Stupid ecological tricks vie with the elimination of privacy as major themes of this robotic curation. Paola presents, for example, a white coffin designed to convert the energy of a decomposing body into power to animate a white vibrating sex toy guaranteed to keep a widow very merry. There’s actually a white vibrator next to the coffin in the show. On the opposite side of life's divide, an inflatable belly pillow allows a woman who is having a baby with a surrogate mother to grow her abdomen across time and space at the same rate as the pregnant surrogate.
Those needing a rest from such mind-bending concepts need only drive their cars into a personalized roadside sleep tent, which reduces tired, accident prone drivers to a state of hypnotic, REM sleep. But be careful what you do in there, or the fiber optic tree with a thousand eyes will spy on you for the cops. (These are actual products in the show, not the ravings of a spotless mind).
Are you paranoid? Then don a "riskwatch," which helpfully indicates the level of combined risk, from terrorism to global warming, via a series of blinking colors, wherever you alight in the world, the perfect parting gift for that Homeland Security buff in the gadgety interface that used to be your life.
Unfortunately, the interactive elements in the "Elastic" show are not as innovative as those at, say, the Children's Museum. There you have a digital room where you can make little birds and bunnies with your hands, the way you did in bed as a child, and a digital stick gizmo with which you can write your name in big letters on a wall. For true "elasticity," go to your neighborhood five-and-dime and buy that true design marvel, a Gumby. Do they still make them?
"Design and the Elastic Mind," Feb. 24-May 12, 2008, at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10019
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).