It might be ancient history for some of you but MOMA had an excellent exhibition called “Talk To Me” in the summer and fall of 2011, which focused on “objects that involve a direct interaction, such as interfaces, information systems, visualization design, and communication devices, and on projects that establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users”. Whether or not you saw the show in 2011, I encourage you to check it out on the MOMA website (where it’s been recreated in web format, along with most of the exhibits MOMA has mounted since the 30s). In your copious free time, of course. (As if I don’t have a lot more reading to do… .)
The show was incredibly wide-ranging — everything from a plastic mouth-expanding “communication prosthesis” to Metrocard machines — but a majority of the objects involved some form or use of mechanical or digital technology. While I was starting the first chapter of Program Earth I thought of one piece in particular: a tree listening station at which passersby in Kew Gardens (London, not Queens) could listen to the inside of a tree (it was recreated in the gallery with a recording, video, and headphones).
It was great to discover that the whole show is accessible online now — I am seeing things that I either missed or was too overwhelmed by sensory input and crowds to take in on the two occasions I went to see it. Here’s one example of something I missed in person, which brings The Peripheral to mind in more ways than one.