Tetris - Alexey Pajitnov 1984
When you think about what you might encounter at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Pac-Man and Tetris are generally not first on the list... if they're on the list at all. Last month, MoMA opened the doors on their new exhibition 'Applied Design,' showcasing a range of designed objects, interfaces and interactions dealing with nearly every facet of society. One of the major highlights of the show is the controversial addition of 14 video games to MoMA's permanent collection. The acquisition seems to toe the line between obvious and ridiculous, but we have to admit, MoMA is right on target for envisioning the modern museum collection of the digital age.
The 14 games, showcasing an array of videogames from traditional arcade, single-player fantasy to MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) were selected not on their graphic quality or aesthetics, but as exemplary pieces of interaction design.
Applied Design is the brainchild of Senior Curator of Architecture and Design, Paola Antonelli, who is no stranger to stretching the boundaries of the contemporary art museum (she was responsible for such shows as Talk to Me and Design and the Elastic Mind; for years she had been pushing to include a Boeing 747 in the permanent collection). The physical museum display of the games feels a little strange, appearing to transform part of the gallery into an arcade. From the collection of 14, about half of the games are playable for museum guests. Games employing longer narratives (Myst and the Sims among others) are displayed with a pre-recording to show the scope, while not letting guests interact directly.
As Antonelli says of her non-traditional acquisitions in MoMA's Inside/Out Blog:
The process by which such unconventional works are selected and acquired for our collection can take surprising turns as well, as can the mode in which they're eventually appreciated by our audiences. While installations have for decades provided museums with interesting challenges involving acquisition, storage, reproducibility, authorship, maintenance, manufacture, context—even questions about the essence of a work of art in itself—MoMA curators have recently ventured further.
Martin Azua - Basic House (1999)
Not to be overshadowed by the games, the more traditional—if we can really refer to Inflatable Nomadic Structures and Honey Comb Vases as 'traditional'—design objects held their own alongside the screen-based design.
Tomas Libertiny - The Honeycomb Vase (2007)
The undeniable belle of the Applied Design ball is the Mine Kafon, by Afghani-born and Design Academy Eindhoven-educated Massoud Hassani. The project—a response to Hassini's childhood in Qasaba—has a built in GPS tracker that records a safe path as it rolls through mine fields. Should the Mine Kafon go into production it is projected to cost approximately forty dollars per tumbleweed—a far cry from the thousands spent on other methods of mine clearing. (It is fair to note here that MoMA has made it too easy to joke about Minesweeper as a notable absent from the video game acquisition.)
Massoud Hassini - Mine Kafon (2011)
The tumbleweed structure is made of bamboo rods with biodegradable plastic feet bound by an iron center, both heavy enough to trigger an active land mine and light enough to roll in only a strong breeze. Should it detonate an active landline, the structure is designed to lose only a few spokes and be salvaged to reconstruct another Mine Kafon. The 7’ tumbleweed is also the star of a forthcoming documentary directed by Callum Cooper.
Applied Design will be open until January 31, 2014 in the third floor Architecture and Design Galleries.