A CONFLICT OF INTEREST
MARCH 10, 2021 By: JAMIE ROSE VALERA
Currently on display until August 15th, 2021 at the Museum of Modern Art is the exhibition, Broken Nature. The exhibition seeks to highlight notions of “restorative design” to improve our current relationship with the earth’s environment. After its previous installment in Milan, the New York iteration features approximately 45 works from the original collection in the museum’s street-level galleries. The promotion of carefully maintaining our complex relationship with the ecosystem can be seen through the exhibition’s “call-to-action” for designers, artists, and other creative practitioners alike. Included in its the list of eco-consciously driven makers are Mustafa Ali Faruka, Aki Inomata, Alex Goad, Julia Lohmann, Christien Meindertsma, and Studio Swine. Broken Nature states that design and architecture “can and have been instrumental in jumpstarting constructive change” regarding the overall sustainability of our modern society and its relationship to the planet’s wellbeing. Broken Nature highlights the necessary collaborations between designers, engineers, scientists, and artists to further progress the current dialogues regarding environmental policy, pollution, and climate change. While Broken Nature at the MoMA offers several “restorative” projects, to what extent does it effectively help pay reparations to the planet?
Algae Geographics, by Atelier Luma, Eric Klarenbeek, and Maartje Dros (2019). Microalgae and sugar-based biopolymer. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Produced by the Algae Lab at Atelier Luma, an experimental cultural center in Arles, France, Algae Geographics dons an organic approach to materiality. The works provides insight to the cutting-edge technology of algae-based biomaterials. Locally known marine plant life are harvested, cultivated, and rendered into new material. It holds the potential of replacing oil- and fossil fuel- based plastic, all while simultaneously absorbing carbon emissions in its production. Upon this discovery, Algae Labs plans to focus its recourses and expand its mission by collaborating with designers across the Mediterranean communities.
Anima, by Kosuke Araki (2018-2019). Charcoal of food waste and urushi. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Another approach to organic materials can be found in Kosuke Araki’s work. A geometric, almost minimalist, dinnerware set greets the viewer with its well-intended nature of reducing “household and industrial food waste.” Leftovers had been collected, burned into charcoal, and later reused to create the displayed work known as Anima. The title gestures to the Latin word, anima: a rough translation for the ideas of spirit, soul, or life. Rather than re-entering the arduous cycle of decomposition, the food waste is instead given a new life as a mold for modern ceramic dish ware. They are then utilized as functional objects for human consumption.
MARS, by Alex Goad (2013). Ceramic, marine concrete, and steel. Installation view of Broken Nature.
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
While much of the collection is based on "green" design, there is still a discrepancy to be found in the exhibition's efficacy. If one were to seek out Broken Nature, they would find themselves situated directly across the design store of the Museum of Modern Art. In fact, one of the galleries' windows looks out across the street to this store. While Broken Nature offers a particular lens for viewers to examine their consumption-based relationship with the environment, the collection is un-ironically graced in a such a way that is not at all removed from its original criticisms of consumption. The spaces of both the gallery and its neighbor, the design store, are equally beautiful according to modern aesthetics; they both feed into our modern tastes rendered by late-stage capitalism. Uncomfortably close to the design stores' location on 53rd street is one of the most expensive and elegant street in the world: Fifth Avenue. The most luxurious retail of the United States can be found here, making it a popular destination for shoppers with deep pockets. Walking in and out of the doors between the gallery and store(s) seem ineffective, and perhaps even distasteful, to the original message of Broken Nature. Had the works of Broken Nature been exhibited and framed in a different matter, however, is still up for discussion.
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