The Rising Currents exhibition at MoMA closed on October 11, and as we have worked on the de-installation of the show in the intervening weeks, I have had a chance to reflect on the exhibition and the project as a whole. As I’ve noted here previously, the workshop and exhibition were precedent-setting in many ways—for myself as a curator, for MoMA as an institution, and, in some ways, for the New York architecture and landscape design community.
Unlike many exhibitions where the show itself is the end destination and ultimate distillation of researched concepts, the Rising Currents exhibition was always intended to be the “second act” in a three-part production, as it were. We wanted the exhibition to jump-start a dialogue on the urgency of climate change and rising sea levels among public officials, policy-makers, and the general public. Possible “third acts” could be to have some of the solutions proposed by the architects in the exhibition actually implemented, or to replicate the Rising Currents workshop and exhibition model in other locales that face similar challenges with sea level rise. In my recent article, “The Activist Exhibition: In the Wake of Rising Currents,” published in Log 20 (a print journal for writing and criticism on architecture), I expand further on how Rising Currents embodies the theme of Log 20: “curating as advocacy.”
It has been interesting to note that even though the exhibition is over, I continue to get research inquiries and requests for speaking engagements on the show from a wide range of people and organizations both here in the U.S. and abroad. I am actually delivering a talk next month on the exhibition at The Laboratory for Research and Innovation in Architecture, Design, Urban Planning and Advanced Tourism in Tenerife, one of the islands in the seven Canary Islands, Spain. The diversity of these requests and the continued interest in the topic indicates to me that the exhibition was successful in catalyzing debate, raising the awareness of the issues of climate change and rising sea levels, and, perhaps most importantly, elevating the role of design in tackling issues of climate change.
We held a closing panel discussion here at MoMA one week before the exhibition ended. The presentations and discussion focused on reactions to the exhibition and possible next steps. We recorded the discussion and wanted to share it here for those that couldn’t attend the event.
I’d like to thank everyone that followed the exhibition’s progress here on the blog and added their reflections in online comments. I hope the dialogue continues.