"Curious Minds: New Approaches in Design," which opened in December 2011, is the largest design exhibition staged by the Israel Museum since its renovation, which ended in mid-2010. It indeed offers new approaches, and is one of the most fascinating exhibitions of its kind to be launched in Israel in recent memory.
Another reason, of course, is those who are participating in this show: 30 international designers are involved, including some of the most interesting, dynamic artists in their field today, most of them relatively young. These include, for instance, the Troika group from England, Stefan Sagmeister from the United States and Studio DRIFT from Holland. In most cases, the choice of works is superb.
In any event, exhibition curator Alex Ward, head of the museum's design and architecture department, believes that those taking part in the show map out new territory with their work, stimulate the imagination, and stir thought and discussion about the role of design in tomorrow's world.
Under the rubric of "critical design," the exhibition features works that deal with questions relating to society, politics and the environment; indeed, the collaboration between designers and researchers from various scientific spheres raises such issues. The exhibition's subtitle, "New Approaches in Design," hints at its essence: This is a strange combination of a modern room of wonders and a laboratory in which designers and engineers toil. In fact, the show can be seen as an introductory lesson in contemporary design. It encompasses most of the trends and phenomena that have characterized the world of design in recent years: a return to work produced by the human hand, and the combination of handicraft and digital technology; the tension between high tech and low tech; works in which the story "behind the scenes" is sometimes more interesting than the final product itself; and last but not least, the theme of nature and it relationship with technology.
Take, for instance, two light sculptures displayed by the Studio DRIFT at the exhibition's entrance. The first, "Fragile Future 3," tries to provide a glimpse of a future in which the natural world coexists with the man-made world of technology. The work is made of dandelion seeds, LED lamps and phosphor bronze. Specifically, its electronic rings are created by phosphor bronze strips cut by laser beams; the dandelion seeds, which were pasted one by one, by hand, onto the LED lamps, are illuminated by electricity. The result is a fascinating study in contrasts of lightness and heaviness, natural and artificial materials, fragile and solid items, high tech and low tech.
The second work displayed by Studio DRIFT is "Flylight," made out of glass, copper threads and electronic objects. Inspired by the flights of starlings, this interactive work is comprised of 160 illuminated glass tubes connected to electronic sensors; the sensors are connected to a computer program which simulates the behavior of flocks of birds. The result is a hypnotic light display.