Elastic Kool-Aid Acid Test

Given the amount of pushing, shoving, and line-jumping going on at last week’s opening of Design and the Elastic Mind, you’d have thought MOMA had just gotten a shipment of Wii’s. Hundreds of the city’s design-obsessed jockeyed to get into the event, decked out in customary black, many puckishly accessorized with zany hats and goofy shoes.

Design curator Paola Antonelli’s widely-anticipated show was such a hot ticket that there were lines simply to get up the escalator, manned by brutes more often seen at Marquee than an art museum. "Geez," said one disgruntled attendee. "If I had known it would be this crowded, I would have come on the weekend."

The clubby atmosphere was reinforced by the throbbing electronica spinning out of the the museum’s dimly-lit, vast atrium, as partygoers sat gaping as a crew of laser artists drew weirdly-dripping light paintings on the three-story high walls.

Yves Behar was there, surrounded, as always, by a gaggle of cute girls. Dror Benshetrit was spotted heading up one escalator. Glenn Lowry, the museum’s newly-reappointed director, wafted by in an ascot.

The show, which features some 200 objects, installations, and concepts that marry science and design. The point, says Antonelli, is to show the critical function that designers now play in translating disruptive scientific and technological innovations into something that everyday people can use or understand. "The figure of the designer," she says, "has changed from form giver to fundamental interpreter of an extraordinarily dynamic reality."

That reality, over the past 25 years, has gotten increasingly elastic, she says. Think about the realms we all navigate every day, from working across time zones, to shifting from microscopic images (and that’s just on our cellphones) to satellite maps. Adaptability is one thing; Darwin never envisioned we’d have to accommodate so much at this pace.

Designers, however, are there to help. "Elastic Mind" shows their efforts to bridge the time-space-technology continuum in surprisingly inventive ways, in everything from nanotechnology to web interfaces, from energy-generating solutions (think shoes, not turbines) to scientific ways to find Mr. or Ms. Right (think body odor, not match.com).

Given the crush, it was a bad time to actually view the show, except for the larger installations. Rachel Wingield’s "Sonumbra," a kind of spooky green tree made of an architectural fabric embedded with solar cells, that offers shelter in the day and emits light at night, glowed gracefully over the crowd.

A vase made by honeybees under the direction of Tomas Gabzdil Libertiny, of Studio Libertiny, was a big hit, as was a room that functioned as a giant shadow puppet theater. Partygoers fueled by cabernet, gave form to their inner demons, which appeared as grotesque, sawtoothed monsters on the wall. Growling sound effects were provided at no extra cost.

The show opens to the public on Feb. 24. We’ll provide close-ups of some of the cooler objects in the week to come.

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