Gallery: VIDEO: Inhabitat Interviews MoMA Curator Paola Antonelli About...

With GPS tracking in our cars and on our phones, we no longer have to rely on stopping and asking a stranger for directions. Taiwanese designer Che-Wei Wang and American Kristin O’Friel thought there was something missed by relying on a software program rather than a person. Their Momo devices ads an animate and cozy quality to finding one’s way. The internal GPS system is programmed for the final destination. Looking much like a stuffed animal and clad in crocheted yarn (complete with ears), the Momo gently leans in the direction or turn to be made next. No robotic voice telling them where to go, the user relies on the gentle nudge of a friend to get them where they want to go.

Paola Antonelli: But there’s a whole world that is on the web. It’s a whole world that is about behaviors. There’s a whole world that is about interactions. There is this amazing infiltration of design in all the facets of our lives that goes well beyond the traditional furniture products and cars. I’m so happy about it because, as you’ve said, this is truly the moment to not only study, but also validate this form of design and give it some benchmarks by doing collective shows like this.

  • The Museum of Modern Art’s latest Talk to Me exhibition puts technology in the hot seat. The exhibition, put together by MoMA design curator Paola Antonelli, showcases cutting edge ‘interaction design’ with its diverse collection of machine-user interfaces, software and gadgets. The featured pieces range far and wide, from self-service JetBlue ticket kiosks to iPad app virtual cartoon characters to an adorable real-life cardboard robot. Antonelli joined MoMA’s staff as the Senior Curator in the Architecture and Design Department in 1994, curating a number of the museum’s groundbreaking exhibitions in furniture and design. Her method of treating design as art was the subject of her 2007 TED Talk, and we were recently given an extra dose of her insight as Antonelli treated us to a personal tour of Talk to Me. Watch the video above as Antonelli and our Editor-in-Chief, Jill Fehrenbacher, walk through the exhibit, discussing the role of technology in our day-to-day lives and its impact on social interaction and human society.

    Inhabitat: What was the inspiration for the ‘Talk to Me’ exhibit?

    Paola Antonelli: All the exhibitions about contemporary design tend to be inspired by what’s happening in the world. And today one of the issues that seem to be really important to us is how we communicate not only between and amongst ourselves, but also with objects. We always had a rapport with objects throughout history, sentimental maybe or even just functional. But right now because of the digital revolution we expect objects to actually have some sort of communication that’s explicit with us.

    The Tweenbot is one of the mascots of the exhibition because it really represents how people react to objects. It was designed by Kacie Kinzer. Kacie would take the little robot, wind it up, leave it in the middle of Washington Square and just film what people were doing. They would go crazy just helping the little robot, talking to it. It would get stuck and they would unstick it.

    This that you see here, which is quite a beautiful artifact, it’s called Artificial Biological Clock. It hinges on an issue that we all know very well, which is being women today and having the career, deciding whether to have children, and thinking that it’s never the right moment. This clock is connected to the fertility cycles, but it’s also connected to your banker, your gynecologist, and your therapist. When everything aligns, it just gives you this alert saying ‘now or never.’ It makes you smile, but at the same time, it’s very serious. So much of critical design is about getting people to think. It’s not about problem solving anymore, which is the old cliché about design, but it’s rather about designing problems and about giving you questions to think of.


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  1. Diane Pham September 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Great interview. Love Paolo Antonelli – such an inspiration to creatives!

  2. Jill Fehrenbacher September 1, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Hey Dan-

    I don’t Paola is saying that there is ‘no impact’ from disruptive innovation – just that there are positive and negative consequences and we just have to be open, as a society, to change, because it is going to happen, whether we like it or not.


  3. Mike Chino September 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    This looks like an amazing exhibit – I’m bummed I can’t make it out to see it!

  4. dan mendes September 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    it’s interesting how Paola find’s no reservations in the increasing digital world and how it may affect human interactions and thoughts, to me everything affects everything, our views of products right now and how society works was greatly affected by the industrial revolution, why not the digital one?

  5. kestrel September 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Can’t wait to check this out. I really enjoyed Paola’s discussion on past and current relationships between “disruptive innovations”!

  6. Jessica Dailey September 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Great interview! I love the pieces that Antonelli pulls out as examples in the exhibit — the Tweenbot is so cute!

  7. Rebecca Paul September 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Wow what an inspiring interview! I’m fascinated by the concepts being explored in this exhibit, and I cannot wait to go.

  8. Yuka Yoneda September 1, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Yet another awesome video. Completely unrelated, but love the outfit choice too.