Rob Walker | Essays

Imagine To Me

Alex Metcalf's Tree Listening installation. At "The Language of Objects" event, Leanne Shapton will offer a “further translation.”

Tom Vanderbilt and Mark Lamster have each written about MoMA's "Talk To Me" show elsewhere in the Design Observer ecosystem, so check out those assessments here and here if you want unbiased viewpoints.

My own viewpoint is totally biased, for a number of reasons, one of which is this: On November 2 I'll be more or less hosting an evening of imaginative responses to the show, titled "The Language of Objects." The evening's real stars are Kenneth Goldsmith, Ben Greenman, Leanne Shapton, and Cintra Wilson. I think it's going to be rather good. If you're in New York, I hope you can attend.

For more about all this please see the writeup by me on MoMA's site. An excerpt:

What I’m most drawn to about the show is its spectacular range of high imagination. It’s not the naïve, kitsch-fated imagination that we now associate with the heyday of the World’s Fair (or with its contemporary descendant, the trade show). It’s the kind of imagination that provokes, entertains, subverts, amuses, and changes the way the viewer thinks not just about the future, but about the present. Best of all, many of these objects express narratives and critiques—often at the same time—that transcend the bounds of the plausible, by design.

It would be an understatement to say that I like that sort of thing. ... So I was thrilled to pitch in and help MoMA’s Laura Beiles organize The Language of Objects, an evening (on November 2) of speculative responses to such a richly imaginative show. We made a list of creative thinkers, writers, and storytellers, and our top four choices promptly agreed to play along: Kenneth Goldsmith, poet; Ben Greenman, author and editor, The New Yorker; Leanne Shapton, illustrator, author, and publisher; and Cintra Wilson, culture critic and novelist.

In responding to Talk to Me, each has devised a wholly original creative work making its debut at our Language of Objects evening of words, images, audio, and, above all, imagination.

Also this:

In short, the program will be, in the true sense of the word, fantastic. Like Talk to Me itself, it’s a program that, we hope, uses imagination to enlighten. The successful narrative, whether expressed via words or a physical object or some thing built of bits, is the narrative that simultaneously entertains its audience and subtly changes the way that audience sees the world.

This is the difference between information and story: both are motivated by what might be worth knowing right now—but only one is crafted to be worth remembering.

Hope you can make it. Details here.

Jobs | March 04