What do you do?
Paola Antonelli is an Italian-born curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and one of the world’s foremost experts on contemporary architecture and design. She received her MA in Architecture from Milan Polytechnic in 1990, and worked at the design magazines Domus and Abitare before coming to MoMA in 1994. At MoMA, where serves as curator for the Department of Architecture and Design, Antonelli has been a strong of advocate of treating design as art: she’s written that "everything is designed, one way or another.” Antonelli is known for her eclecticism, and has curated well-received shows such as Workspheres (2001), devoted to the workplace of the near future. Her recent exhibit SAFE included – among other materials – a UN refugee tarp, camouflage cream, and a baby buggy. Antonelli has taught design history and theory at UCLA and Harvard and is the author of Humble Masterpieces: Everyday Marvels of Design, and co-author of 2008 book Design and the Elastic Mind.
Question: Beyond a simple title, how would you describe what you do?
Antonelli: What I do for a living is always the same thing from the start but with different expressions. You know I feel that my mission in life is to report what I see. I have a really, really strong eye and a very, very big capacity to make a synthesis of what I see and present it. So I tried before to do it. I was a writer. I was an educator because I was teaching. I still do sometimes. So I used paper. I used the Internet. I used teaching. And now I use exhibitions. And I use the museum as a platform to communicate to the public. What I really wanna do is to explain to as wide an audience as possible how great design is. I really strongly believe that it’s one of the highest if not the highest expression of human creativity. And so I just take whatever I can, whatever I have at my disposal to communicate it to the public. In more detailed terms, I organize exhibitions. I conceive them and then I carry them through so that they become actual exhibitions open to the public. I augment the collections at the Museum of Modern Art, especially with contemporary design. I speak publically. I speak privately. You know when you’re at the Museum of Modern Art, you’re almost a public figure. So you get queries from anybody – people who own chairs and want to know what they’re worth; young people that want to become designers and want to know more; they want to become curators. So you really are a magnet for all sorts of inquiries. I speak to the press. So it’s really . . . I really consider myself a loudspeaker.
Question: Where does your work fit in?
Antonelli: You know it’s a very good question. I do consider myself in the middle of it all. And very often when people are in museums they . . . the public thinks that they don’t touch commerce; they don’t touch business because that’s almost dirty. And instead I find business, manufacturing and economics really vital – especially to my discipline, which is design. Interestingly enough the Museum of Modern Art was founded in 1929. And the founding director, Alfred Barr, was in his twenties when the museum was founded. And he, from the start, included architecture and design as one of the curatorial departments in the museum. And he said that design and film – that was another department – were the opportunities for everybody . . . for people all over the world to have art in their lives. That’s the truth. Design really sits in this very special position. Design is informed and is shaped by, of course, art; of course engineering, technology, science; but also by business, the market, by all of those very mundane disciplines that shape what people want or will want and the way they use objects. The way I sit in the middle of it all is by being as much of a sponge as I can. You know whenever I organize an exhibition – and even in my normal life – I just do nothing but observing, reading, traveling as much as I can, and exploiting my curiosity. I think that that’s possibly my best quality – curiosity. And that’s why also I try to, for instance, go to conferences that are not specifically about design, but also economics conferences, or technology conferences. That’s where I learn so much. And because I did those two years of economics – see everything fits in the minestrone, in the broth – I can speak the language of businesspeople and I can understand their language. Another thing that I do is I am a magazine junkie, and so I subscribe to about 25, 27 magazines at home that are not design – ranging from Consumer Reports – great design magazine – to The Economist, to InStyle. I mean anything goes, right? So truly I just become a funnel, a sponge, a black hole for everything that deals with the world and with how people live. And I translate it and interpret it so that people understand it as a substrate for design.
Antonelli sees herself as a loudspeaker.
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"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"
"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons<h3>Naked revolution</h3><p>Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (<em>Wandervögel</em>) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote <em>The C</em><em>ult of </em><em>the </em><em>Nud</em><em>e</em>, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.</p><p>In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (<em>Naturheilbewegung</em>) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.</p><p>Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (<em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.</p><p>The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.</p><p>In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.</p>
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Crows have their own version of the human cerebral cortex.
Action-packed pallia<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NzkyMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzk1NzM1OH0.Tjb3zulFW2gwhteR124F9HGbmdnCqNqQFOBQouieTJ8/img.png?width=980" id="2bbc9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2907e4035e553565f4446e968ee73d92" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Fun with Ozzie and Glenn<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0Njk2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzY4Njc2MX0.ZgpsPMCK6qOj2o0kErvVPjdua1EnMCIwCuHHGrb3LiY/img.jpg?width=980" id="acbeb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e286fecbb228a5ca8aa26fcd19f95a2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="two crows in a tree" />
Ozzie and Glenn not pictured
Credit: narubono/Unsplash<p>The kind of higher intelligence crows exhibited in the new research is similar to the way we solve problems. We catalog relevant knowledge and then explore different combinations of what we know to arrive at an action or solution.</p><p>The researchers, led by neurobiologist <a href="https://homepages.uni-tuebingen.de/andreas.nieder/" target="_blank">Andreas Nieder</a> of the University of Tübingen in Germany, trained two carrion crows (<em>Corvus corone</em>), Ozzie and Glenn.</p><p>The crows were trained to watch for a flash — which didn't always appear — and then peck at a red or blue target to register whether or not a flash of light was seen. Ozzie and Glenn were also taught to understand a changing "rule key" that specified whether red or blue signified the presence of a flash with the other color signifying that no flash occurred.</p><p>In each round of a test, after a flash did or didn't appear, the crows were presented a rule key describing the current meaning of the red and blue targets, after which they pecked their response.</p><p>This sequence prevented the crows from simply rehearsing their response on auto-pilot, so to speak. In each test, they had to take the entire process from the top, seeing a flash or no flash, and then figuring out which target to peck.</p><p>As all this occurred, the researchers monitored their neuronal activity. When Ozzie or Glenn saw a flash, sensory neurons fired and then stopped as the bird worked out which target to peck. When there was no flash, no firing of the sensory neurons was observed before the crow paused to figure out the correct target.</p><p>Nieder's interpretation of this sequence is that Ozzie or Glenn had to see or not see a flash, deliberately note that there had or hadn't been a flash — exhibiting self-awareness of what had just been experienced — and then, in a few moments, connect that recollection to their knowledge of the current rule key before pecking the correct target.</p><p>During those few moments after the sensory neuron activity had died down, Nieder reported activity among a large population of neurons as the crows put the pieces together preparing to report what they'd seen. Among the busy areas in the crows' brains during this phase of the sequence was, not surprisingly, the pallium.</p><p>Overall, the study may eliminate the layered cerebral cortex as a requirement for higher intelligence. As we learn more about the intelligence of crows, we can at least say with some certainty that it would be wise to avoid <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/science/26crow.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">angering one</a>.</p>