Titled Life Cycles: The Materials of Contemporary Design, the show hosts 80 contemporary design works from MoMA’s collection by 40 designers, investigating the full life cycles of materials from extraction to recycling, upcycling, or disposal.
Organized by senior curator Paola Antonelli and curatorial assistant Maya Ellerkmann, the exhibition demonstrates the “unconventional ways in which designers have rethought and deployed materials to embrace restorative attitudes and facilitate the preservation and protection of the environment.” Recognizing the continuously changing and evolving relationship between designers and materials, the research seeks to address a perceived lack of attention given to the long-term behavior and impact of new materials.
Among the works on display are Nendo’s Cabbage Chair (2007), investigating the use of waste as a new material, and Tomáš Gabzdil Libertíny’s Honeycomb Vase (2006), which explores co-creation with other species, namely hundreds of bees. Meanwhile, Mae-ling Lokko’s commission of a wall panel made of hemp, kenaf fibers, and fungal mycelium experiments with manufacturing practices using naturally available materials or forms of energy.
“The environmental crisis is front and center in everybody’s mind,” said Antonelli about the exhibition. “Design has an integral responsibility, and any act of good design should involve awareness, empathy, respect, and consideration toward all objects, organisms, and ecosystems — as well as future generations.”
“Design can be an agent of positive change and play a crucial part in restoring the fragile ties between humans and the rest of nature,” Antonelli added. “The materials with which objects are made, and our cultural attitudes toward them — as designers and as citizens — lead this evolutionary process.”
Life Cycles: The Materials of Contemporary Design is on view in the museum’s street-level gallery through July 7th, 2024.
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