“Don’t you wonder sometimes/’Bout sound and vision?” sings David Bowie wistfully on a track from the album Low, released in 1977. Recently I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how music—an essentially invisible and immaterial art form—grounds us in the physical world, influencing the mood and tone of everyday life. Without it we definitely lose our bearings. Read more
Posts tagged ‘graphic design’
I’m one of those people that carries a notebook everywhere so I can be sure to record what mostly turns out to be a lot of useless information, for example rock concert set lists—though not religiously, just when I feel like it. Recently I tried using the notes app on my phone, but it’s just not the same. Read more
What happens when biology—specifically, the core materials and processes that underpin the life cycle of all living beings—birth, existence, disease, and death—becomes synthetically replicable by humans and, consequently, a building block for design? Read more
When thinking about the masterpieces in MoMA’s collection, one might be forgiven for visualizing Picasso’s Demoiselles (1907) or Jackson Pollock’s One (1950). The canon of visual art and design—a force that has shaped popular opinion—has, for centuries, held large-scale painting in high regard. Even the Oxford Dictionary entry for “masterpiece”—(noun): A work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship”—uses Picasso as its defining example. Read more
When Massimo Vignelli, one of the greatest graphic designers of the 20th century, was close to death in mid-May, his son Luca informed the whole design community—at Vignelli’s request—so we could say goodbye with our thoughts and with a letter. Read more
In honor of NYCxDESIGN—New York City’s official citywide celebration of design—MoMA Design Store is pleased to present a suite of products brought to life by Kickstarter.
Since Kickstarter launched five years ago, thousands of people on all seven continents (even Antarctica!) have used the platform to share their ideas, shape the world around us, and design the future. Read more
There’s nothing in the world like a really fast car, and the MoMA design collection has one of the world’s fastest: the 1990 Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 High Performance Racing Car (641/2), by British auto designer John Barnard.
Though not a recent acquisition, I thought it fitting to feature the Ferrari now in honor of Fernando Alonso and Ferrari’s first podium of the 2014 Formula 1 season at the recent Chinese Grand Prix.
As designer John Barnard explains in an audio guide segment from the 2002 exhibition AUTObodies: speed, sport, transport, the 641, or F1-90, as it’s become known, was built for speed. And it delivered. Plus it’s red. Fiery red. Ferrari red, in fact. Red means danger, look out, hot stuff coming through; it’s the color of anger, passion, and seduction, and as everyone knows, red cars go faster.
Scuderia Ferrari has been part of Formula 1 since the beginning, so it’s no wonder that the racing team holds so many F1 records, including the most constructor and driver championships and most overall wins. Each Formula 1 team races two cars; in 1990 two world championship drivers, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell, drove the 641 for Ferrari, combining for three pole positions, five fastest laps, and six wins. As reigning champion, Prost’s was the number one car; and he came close to repeating—only to lose out to another world champion, his arch rival Aryton Senna.
The formula, or the overall guiding regulations of Formula 1, has changed over the years with countless modifications and improvements. And big changes came this year with the hybrid 1.6-litre V-6 turbo engine with ERS (Energy Recovery Systems), a major shift from the 2013 2.4-litre V-8. Overall design changes accompanied the new, greener 2014 engines, but likely the most notable and most talked about change is the new engine sound—or lack of it. Drivers have said they can hear the wind over the engine noise; used to be all you could hear was the engine.
The sound of the 1990 641 Ferrari 3.5-litre V-12 engine is familiar to race fans the world over. Like none other, it screams exhilaration, excitement, and pure power.
The world of Grand Prix motor racing is one of precision, with its rigorous formula, and exacting calculations; it’s a culture unto itself with a complicated set of rules and statistical systems of points and penalties spoken in a language of strange numbers and acronyms. But it’s the visceral experience of raw power, crazy kinetic energy, and speed of the cars that ignites our imagination—the remarkable talents and mad skills of drivers the draws us in.
“Tutti i Motori Ferrari,” a catalogue of Ferrari engines designed by the Dutch graphic artist Irma Boom is also in MoMA’s design collection. Its soft, outer cover displays the Ferrari prancing horse logo on a silver-colored background that looks to be made of a fluid version of same the aluminum alloy used for F1 engine blocks; the interior plates showcase the evolution of the engines throughout Ferrari’s history. (A flip through of the pages of “Tutti I Motori Ferrari” begins at the one minute mark in the video “20 books by Irma Boom.”)
Before AUTObodies MoMA’s Ferrari 641-2 was first on view in the 1993 exhibition Designed for Speed: Three Automobiles by Ferrari. It can presently be found hanging on the wall in MoMA’s Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building lobby, like a perfect portrait of a high-performance machine.
Right now the U.S. military is preparing to allow women to serve in combat roles for the first time, and pressure is growing from international precedent for the U.K. to follow suit. Yet there are still many who feel that the frontline is just not a place fit for a woman. Such a prospect was certainly out of the question a century ago during World War I. Read more
Since the early 1990s, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has used art to challenge how we experience and interact with the world. The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1′s 2008 exhibition Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson—the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work to date—transformed MoMA’s galleries into hybrid spaces of nature and culture, prompting an intensive engagement with the world and offering a fresh consideration of everyday life.
Nature serves as a constant source of fascination for Eliasson, but light in particular is one of his favorite mediums and most effective tools. For the artist, light is not incidental: it is an instrument through which he communes with the public. For example, in Room for one color (1997), mono-frequency lights eliminate every wavelength except for yellow, and provoke an involuntary neurological response that intensifies the participants’ perception of detail and dimension. Conversely, 360° room for all colours (2002), utilizes a circular enclosure backlit by 750 lamps that change hue slowly, plunging the participant deep into the color spectrum, dissolving the line between reality and the imagination.
Light acts as muse once again in his most recent piece, Little Sun, but this time the artist’s ambition is not merely to use art to alter our perception of the environment; it is to use art to affect social change on a global level.
“I have an obsession with light,” says Eliasson. “How light forms a space. How a space forms light. As a child I grew up in Iceland where there is no sunlight in the winter. It simply stays dark all day. Light became [something that] pulled people together. Light became a way of connecting to other people. Light is social. Light is life.”
The brainchild of Eliasson and solar engineer Frederik Ottesen, Little Sun is a solar-powered LED light described by the artist as a “work of art that works in life.” Nearly one quarter of the world’s population does not have access to electricity. When the sun sets, entire communities grind to a halt. Poverty reduction strategies are difficult to implement, as working hours are limited to daytime, medical care is dangerous to provide, and education levels drop since children cannot study after sunset.
Kerosene lanterns are a common off-grid solution to these issues, yet an evening of breathing in a kerosene lamp’s toxic emissions is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes. As they spend more hours in the home, women and children suffer disproportionately from breathing-related problems, burns, and fires caused by kerosene-powered lanterns and candles. And while polluting homes on a local level, kerosene also impacts the environment on a global scale, releasing 190 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere per year.
In addition to being healthier and more eco-friendly than kerosene, Little Sun is also more affordable. The cost of one Little Sun lamp (which lasts approximately three years) is equivalent to the cost of three to six months of kerosene-fueled light. The Little Sun may be small, but like its namesake, it is extremely powerful. A five-hour charge produces up to three hours of bright light, and up to 10 hours of lower light.
“It’s for cooking, eating, reading, learning, but it’s also for earning,” says Eliasson. “The distribution part of this project is also powerful. If [local merchants] make a few bucks selling it there’s something there that I consider a work of art as well. The microeconomic infrastructure that needs to take this to the end user is also part of the Little Sun vision.”
Since its 2012 launch at the Tate Modern, Little Sun has not only received official certification from Lighting Africa—a joint IFC and World Bank program—but, to date, 126,402 lamps have been distributed worldwide; one in three going to areas without electricity. The lamp currently has distribution in seven African countries, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, as well as in the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
MoMA and the MoMA Design Store are proud to support this brilliant initiative, and through April our store windows will be dedicated to the Little Sun project, with the goal of bringing these pressing social issues to light and empowering the public through art and design. Every purchase makes it possible for the Little Sun to be sold in off-grid communities at locally affordable prices. To Eliasson, one part of the artwork is the lamp and the activities it enables. The other is the successful distribution of the Little Sun in off-grid communities, and its journey from production to usage.
“I need you to power this project” says Eliasson. “Holding power in your hands is very liberating. It makes you feel resourceful, connected—whether you’re a child or adult, on-grid or off-grid. This is something we all share. In everyday life, it is important that we critically engage in global initiatives and local contexts. Our actions have consequences for the world. Little Sun is a wedge that opens up the urgent discussion about bringing sustainable energy to all from the perspective of art.”