The Installation Chronicles

If you have been to the show, then you have seen the monstrous feat accomplished by our team: transforming the 3rd floor exhibitions gallery from a space that held Picasso’s Guitars to a space full of moving, crying, tweeting, singing, sneezing, crowing, and blinking objects.  There were many challenges that we had to consider–from the practical needs like power, network and size requirements–to more aesthetic concerns. We knew we would be using monitors as one of the main ways to display projects and didactic videos about the objects, and were afraid that the space might end up looking like an electronics trade show, a Best Buy store, or a Pachinko parlor.  We also had to consider that many of the pieces were interactive–whether via headphones, smartphones, tablets, mice and keyboards or joysticks–meaning that the displays had to allow for close personal contact.  Most of the projects are also quite small–the opposite of our usual problem of fitting giant objects like cars and helicopters into the galleries–necessitating more intimate spaces.

Hiding Electrical Wiring and A/V Equipment

At first, to achieve such intimacy we thought of pod-like structures and we collected images and inspiration along those lines here.  We also thought of minigolfs, in the attempt to articulate the space and mold the circulation. The final design for the show gave order to these unruly organic structures by adopting a modular grid that could handle the diverse requirements of the show.

We have asked Betty Fisher, the Exhibition Designer and Production Manager of Talk to Me and many other shows as MoMA, to give us a concise description of the way she developed the design for the installation:

Label mock ups for Unit 5

“Well over a year ago, Paola, Kate, and I met to discuss the overall concept for the exhibition. There were a number of challenges to designing this show that made it a bit atypical for MoMA. To begin with, Paola did not want to have our carpenters build normal sheetrock walls and we needed to find a good design solution for incorporating about 80 monitors, interactive kiosks, projections, casework, a fully-functioning MTA MetroCard Vending Machine and Talking Carl (an interactive app that has become the mascot of the show, ed’s note).

Construction Phase

Then there were the electrical issues: early on, we realized that the electrical power setup for the gallery would not be able to support the show’s needs. Working with our amazing A/V, electrical, and IT departments, we figured out that we would need to pull an additional 21 circuits of electrical power and completely overhaul the wi-fi in the gallery. While working on this, Kate, Mike Gibbons (from A/V), and I started talking to the designers to figure out the best way to install each work and to make sure we would take into account what each piece required.

Color Test for Unit 1

With all of this information coming in, the design of the exhibition started pulling together. We came up with the idea of a modular 30” unit that could act as casework and hide electrical and A/V equipment, and also that we could stack high to make tall elements on which we could even hang works. From this idea, the orange/red wall units came into being. Instead of creating rooms, these units act as dividers between the six sections of the show, and the space in between is more corridor-like than typical gallery space. The units stop short of the ceiling and are made out of MDF, with all of the equipment hidden within each one. Paola wanted the color and rounded edges to look like Talking Carl, and everything else seemed to fall into place. Above are some images showing the various construction phases.”

Future Home of the Tweenbot

Thanks Betty!  Even after all of our careful considerations, measurements and many many hours spent in the model room and at Betty’s desk hunched over the computer (we admire Betty’s newfound Rhino skills, by the way) there are always things that have to be figured out on the spot.

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