We expect objects to talk to us. That's the core concept of the excellent exhibition Talk to Me running now, through November 7 at New York's Museum of Modern Art. If you are interested in video games, radios that sneeze, Rubik's Cubes for the blind or any of the many other ways.
If you can make it to New York City, I strongly urge you to attend. If not, flick through the gallery here. I shot pictures and videos of some of the cooler pieces in the exhibit during a visit yesterday.
To orient you, before you dive in, here's how the museum describes the purpose of Talk To Me on the exhibition's official website:
"Talk to Me explores the communication between people and things. All objects contain information that goes well beyond their immediate use or appearance. In some cases, objects like cell phones and computers exist to provide us with access to complex systems and networks, behaving as gateways and interpreters. Whether openly and actively, or in subtle, subliminal ways, things talk to us, and designers help us develop and improvise the dialogue.
The exhibition focuses 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. Examples range from a few iconic products of the late 1960s to several projects currently in development-including computer and machine interfaces, websites, video games, devices and tools, furniture and physical products, and extending to installations and whole environments."
Helix is a card game prototype from Area Code (aka Zynga New York, makers of Drop 7). It's a card game in which you have a personalized deck of cards that has been configured to your DNA, based on a saliva sample sent in by each player to the game's creators. From the museum's description: "With these cards, two players engage in tabletop warfare, pitting their personal resources against each other in duels that reward strategy but are constrained by genetic reality." Watch the video here for more.
This is Jason Rohrer's Passage, one of the few video games at the exhibit. (To the left is a poster that shows the proper strokes of a good toothbrushing).
Here's how the museum describes the game:
"During the span of this five-minute game, a player encounters an entire life-time of obstacles and choices. Rohrer conceived of Passage as a memento mori. In it a character begins as a young adult, ages and dies, all the while moving across the screen through different phases of life. Points are earned from rewards in treasure chests, but many of the chests are empty; Rohrer notes that in the game, as in life, "not every pursuit leads to a reward." Players may seek points alone or in the company of a life partner. Travel and treasure gathering are easier for the agile solo player, but couples can earn more points, although they face more obstacles and one will eventually be slowed by grief when the other dies. Unlike other video games, players do not have multiple lives. Rohrer notes, "you die only once, at the very end, and you are powerless to stave off this inevitable loss."
Here's how a guy who was playing the game while I was there talked about it to the lady he was with:
He said: "This is depressing."
She said, while standing a few feet away near a box full of capsules containing scraps of the Old Testament: "When you die, I'll be right here."
More Passage, with Short++ in the foreground. Better than being mere platform shoes, these things are iPhone controlled and can make you taller or shorter depending on how tall you feel you need to be at the moment.
This is Prayer Companion, a ticker that tells nuns who needs some praying sent their way. Watch the video here for more.
It's the Talk To Yourself Hat! Click the image to enlarge it for a better view.
On the right is the Gesundheit Radio, which sneeze when it gets dusty. On the left is a Floppy Legs Portable Hard Drive, which stands up when spilled coffee gets near it. I'm not sure if these are real or just great ideas.
On the wall, we've got a looping trailer for the PlayStation 3's LittleBigPlanet, a video of Jason Rohrer's Sleep is Death, both on a large print of Dwarf Fortress. Yes, indeed, video games like these let us communicate with each other in the most interesting ways.
I was charmed by Export to the World which are paper sculptures of Second Life versions of real-world objects. The real made virtual made real.
The Mojibakeru are Kanji characters that can be transformed into their meanings. Click the image to enlarge it for a better view.
Take a look at the Menstruation Machine. Perhaps I need to explain this one? From the museum's description: "The device, equipped with a blood-dispensing system and electrodes that stimulate the lower abdomen, replicates the pain and bleeding of the average five-day menstrual period. It is designed to be worn by men, children, postmenopausal women, or whoever else wants to experience menstruation firsthand, transferring an internal, private process into a wearable display of identity." Click the image to enlarge it for a better view.
The Avatar Machine is an outfit that you wear that has a goggle headset and a camera sticking out of the back. As the video shows, the person who wears is sees a third-person view of themselves walking through the world. Brilliant. Watch the video here for more.
The seemingly blank Notepad is actually printed with the names of every civilian who died in the first three years of the current war in Iraq. Their names are printed in microscopic text, so as to appear like the lines on a blank notepad. The intent: to imagine that such notepads, used unwittingly by government officials, would subliminally make them aware of the toll of the war. Click the image to enlarge it for a better view.
It's the SMSlingshot! Click the image to enlarge it for a better view.
Hyperreal Everyday Life is a set of goggles that makes reality seem more epic by letterboxing it into cinematic widescreen and scoring it with epic movie soundtracks.
And there's so much more. Go to the exhibit, people (official info here), if you can get to New York City.