Gallery: MASSIVE CHANGE Exhibition in Chicago


Earth Simulator. JAMSTEC/ Earth Simulator Center

Massive Change, the recently-debuted global design exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, is less a display of interesting projects as it is a call to action. Upon entering the museum lobby, oversized text reads, “Congratulations. You have just joined the Massive Change project…You are now part of an international network exploring the future of global design.” Open through December 31, the exhibition looks at new technologies and the potential for design to effect change on a global scale, asking visitors to be aware and, more importantly, to be a part of the change.

A collaboration between Bruce Mau, The Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Institute Without Boundaries, the exhibition poses the question, “Now that we can do anything, what will we do?” From a variety of environmentally friendly transportation options and global mapping to cutting-edge materials and video installations, the show is an overwhelming yet inspiring collection that proves the power and potential of good, responsible design.

Bruce Mau, a design pioneer at many scales, successfully translates the ideas from his recent design manifesto into a provocative, accessible, and immersive experience. The exhibition employs objects, sound, video, photography, satellite images, interactive technologies, and installations, to explore the impact of global design.

Electromagnetic Spectrum in Image gallery- Photos courtesy of Institute without Boundaries and Vancouver Art Gallery

The space itself is divided into sections, each representing one of the ten “economies” of global design: urbanization, movement, living, image, markets, information, energy, materials, military, and manufacturing. One of the most powerful spaces is the Image gallery, where photos of everything from wedding parties to microscopic organisms plaster the walls as a representation of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Movement gallery

While the automobiles are a crowd favorite, ranging from electric and human-powered Gizmos and Twikes to the Segway and iBOT wheelchair, one of the most profoundly influential objects in the show is Lifestraw, a drinking straw with a filtration system that turns virtually all water into a potable drinking source. Created by Danish company Vestergaard Frandsen, Lifestraw costs just $3 and provides safe water to its user for a year.

Vestergaard Frandsen’s Lifestraw

Other highlights include Adi Nes’ featherless chicken, whose baldness would conserve energy from plucking machines and reduce waste, and a video installation with audio narration explaining methods of providing affordable housing to the whole world.

Featherless chicken by Adi Nes

The exhibition is a comprehensive and profoundly powerful achievement, striking an extraordinary balance between information and inspiration. Tricia Van Eck, one of the MCA’s curators, sums up the power of the exhibition: “Massive Change highlights the work of individuals who are designing positive, creative solutions to global problems. And at the same time it shows how individual choices have the potential to create massive change. We can all do our part.”


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  1. Geraldina Wise October 21, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    I’m going to Chicago for the USGBC Greenbuild conference, and nowhere in the information was thsi included as a destintion in Chicago. I’m going to go see it, and then I’ll know if the new paradigms for living sustainably are already being explored. The drinking straw is genial, the chicken…well that’s already been said! No wonder I don’t eat chicken!

  2. the World House Project... August 21, 2007 at 8:24 am

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  3. Inhabitat » THE S... April 28, 2007 at 1:19 pm

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  4. chicagoan December 3, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    I was present during the set up for Massive Change. With all the garbage produced so far from that show, there was absolutely NO concerns about recycling any of it from Bruce Mau or the Vancouver Art Gallery or the MCA curators or director. I hope someone investigates where all that NON-recyclable vinyl lettering and imagery that is plastered all over the museum goes when the show is done. More than likely it goes straight into a landfill where it will never break down because it’s NOT “green”. Don’t even get me started on the amount of wood, plexi and drywall that will go straight into a dumpster. Luckily there are local artists around that sometimes intercept these perfectly good materials before they end up in a landfill.

  5. chicago October 25, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    I felt good about this post. It confirmed for me some of the things I’ve been thinking about.

  6. frances October 16, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    I’m sure those chickens won’t be seeing the light of day; that they’re intended for factory farming, where climate can be controlled. No feathers, no lice, too….so less insecticide needed?

  7. Alice Williams October 15, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    I`m sure Adi Nes, knows nothing about saving money and raising chickens. The cost of protection, ie. climate insects ect .,would be cost prohibitive on a scale of any size, with ” BALD” chickens. The rest of the article, WONDERFUL!!!

  8. Chris Rothery October 15, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    I saw this exhibit in Vancouver. It is optomistic to a fault! But I like that. It has been a “call to action” for me and I think if you can see it you should see it.

  9. mykel October 15, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    I think I’ll go. Although, I’m not too keen on the featherless chicken.

  10. Maggie van Rooyen October 15, 2006 at 8:47 am

    Featherless chicken? Not for me thanks… I rather go without. The rest of the article is fantastic.

  11. mikel October 14, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    nice one!!!

    id like to go, but a bit far for me


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