Friday, December 15, 2006

Massive Sideshow?

The brilliant graphics designer Bruce Mau says his exhibition Massive Change is "not about the world of design; it's about the design of the world." The world may have other plans.

Massive Change and it's accompanying exhibition, Sustainable Architecture in Chicago: Works in Progress, showcasing green projects from seven top Chicago architects, are in their final weeks at the Museum of Contemporary Art. (Massive closes December 31st, Sustainable January 7th)

What's the disconnect between the wonders on display and their actual impact on our world? Is Mau's grandiose vision a roadmap to paradise or a triumph of public relations?

Read all about it - including Mau's commentary as he toured his exhibition - with lots of pictures and links, for both shows - here.

5 comments:

Mike Doyle said...

Public relations, and not much of a triumph. The disconnect between Mau's auteur, utopian "vision" and the real world is palpable to the point of choking on it throughout the exhibit. The fundamental point missed by Mau--and this I think on purpose--you have to have at least one foot inside the system to change it. Curiously absent from Mau's vision: how we actually get there from here. Well, except perhaps for the shame of contemporary society, another strong undercurrent of this thin manifesto masquerading as critical analysis.

Has anyone else noticed the only people quoted in MCA's ads for the exhibit are MCA employees? Note to MCA: when the art you have an offer becomes too high-minded to seek the opinion of your actual visitors, that's a rotten sign.

Anonymous said...

It so easy to be a critic—really. Through Mau’s “auteur vision” he offers at the very least exposure through obviously elaborate and thoughtful research. I personally believe this exhibit does much more and I walked away feeling this exhibit had no end…it was the beginning……Imagine that—something that is thought provoking that reveals a way of looking at things that is outside of an established “system”, bringing about a different understanding of things. …. “CHANGE” what a wonderful word. The exhibit could have been just this word as it seems to summarize our contemporary condition at so many levels. Sometimes you have to work outside of a flawed system to bring about change.

What does your critique offer other than a predictable premature judgmental diatribe?

Amanda said...

I think the facinating thing about the exhibit is that it does NOT provide an answer. It calls attention to all of the factors - where we are, where we're beginning. It is suggesting a more thorough approach to problem solving, the lack of which has contributed to our current situations. I think design is only good if it works - and Massive Change is calling into question the criteria by which we measure success - it is demanding more out of "designers", demanding that they become problem solvers and to stop being cake decorators - we have a responsibility. Mau also proposes through this exhibit that being intelligent and thorough does not mean the product must, by default, be boring or ugly.

I agree that this exhibit is just the beginning. Myriad issues are brought to the forefront to educate the public (including designers who often exclude themselves from this category), motivate thinkers/designers to seek out myriad answers by studying and understanding the critera for which we design.
This exhibit is one step in communicating the complexity of our world.

Anonymous said...

I did not find this show to be very inspiring. I was first turned off by the apparent stupidity of the exhibit of goofy mini cars that cant carry any passengers or even groceries. What is the point of such a vehicle? Are we to have separate vehicles for picking up groceries and shopping with a spouse to supplement a commuter car? How is that reducing consumption? What am I missing?

I cant disagree with the enormous importance of reducing our consumption of energy and materials, but how has Mau contributed to this shared goal?

Mike Doyle said...

Well to be blunt, my biggest disappointment was that there wasn't anything new. Collecting every bit of green or forward-thinking design you can get your hands on, throwing it all together, and labeling it all "important" doesn't make any of it new--or art.

Change never, ever comes about outside of a flawed or any other system, unless by utter revolution (remember Marx?). Societies by definition respond to messages that have no internal reference point with scorn, disbelief, or simply ignorance. Real change happens from the inside.

As far as this exhibit being "one step in communicating the complexity of our world", you really must be kidding. The world is complex: this is news? Has our society really dumbed itself that far down that we don't have a core understanding of that? Give me a break.

I tried very hard to find that inside relevance in the Mau exhibit. Any hint at all of how we get there from here. And the only message I came away with was "This world is a bad one, let's pick up our toys and go create a new one."

Unfortunately, that's not an option. I expected much, much more from this exhibit. I expected to be constructively informed. But THAT message simply wasn't there.