April 13 to October 28, multiple Dutch designers partake in the extra-ocular exhibition The Senses: Design Beyond Vision at Cooper Hewitt. “The Senses” features direct sensory experiences and displays practical, innovative and exploratory products to touch, hear, see, and smell. Online tickets are $16 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7 for students, and children under 18 get in for free!
The exhibition opens with two interactive installations. “Tactile Orchestra”, created by Studio Roos Meerman and KunstLAB Arnhem, consists of a wall covered in synthetic fur. Touching the wall causes a recording of a string instrument to play; multiple users can play the full composition.“Dialect for a New Era” explores how scent can expand language. On six translucent pillars, a line of text describes a complex emotional state, such as “a moment of collective déjà vu.” Visitors push a button to release a unique scent and forge new connections between language and smell.
The piece, shown below, was designed by Frederik Duerinck and Marcel Van Brakel, Polymorf and IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc.), in collaboration with linguist Asifa Majid and perfumer Laurent Le Guernec.
Studio Roos Meerman researches techniques and processes, using her design mentality to innovate and pioneer. By altering existing machines or tools, she finds new ways to translate her amazement for nature and physics into something tangible. The outcome is used as a way to talk about advancement in technology and as a conversation starter for crossover collaborations with scientists and industrial partners. With a special interest in 3D printing, Meerman explores the potential of this game-changing technique in multiple projects, challenging the boundaries and applicabilities of both material and mechanics.
In spring 2018, a series of public programs will inspire conversation about multisensory design. Planned events include an Experience Café, Thursday, April 18th, 6:30pm, a multisensory event featuring tastings, demonstrations, and conversations with designers from “The Senses,” and a Central Park Smellwalk with designer Kate McLean, Saturday, May 26, 1:30 p.m.
By translating sound into images and vibrations, designers invite users to perceive sound beyond hearing. The Vibeat wearable device allows users to feel music as vibration against their skin.
The COTODAMA Lyric Speaker creates animations of song lyrics, produced with custom software that analyzes the qualities of the music in real time.
Ultrahaptics is a new technology that uses sound as a tactile interface. A sound system designed by Sanne Gelissen isolates sound around the space of the user to make it intimate and personal.
The tangible qualities of materials include shape, texture, hardness, and weight. The part of the exhibition called “Sensory Materials” features photographic prints of letterforms bathed in frog eggs or crafted from human hair, created by graphic artist Monique Goossens.
The dining table is rooted in rituals and embellished by tableware. Featured in this section are experimental food prototypes by Marije Vogelzang, including “Plant Bones”, models for new forms of plant-based protein.
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum will present The Senses: Design Beyond Vision exhibition, on view April 13th through October 28th, which examines how multisensory design amplifies everyone’s ability to receive information, explore the world, satisfy essential needs and experience joy and wonder. The exhibition invites visitors to encounter design with all their senses through several interactive installations, created in collaboration with contemporary designers, from a furry wall with digital sensors that play music to a scent commission by Christopher Brosius inspired by winter.
Organized by Ellen Lupton, senior curator of contemporary design, and Andrea Lipps, assistant curator of contemporary design, the exhibition includes work by more than 65 designers and teams and reveals how sensory design can solve problems and enhance life for all people, including those with sensory disabilities. Contemporary designers are experimenting with materials, exploring technology and embracing the differing needs and experiences of users, in order to heighten sensory awareness and improve daily life.
‘Across all industries and disciplines, designers are avidly seeking ways to stimulate our sensory responses to solve problems of access and enrich our interactions with the world,’ said Cooper Hewitt Director Caroline Baumann. ‘“The Senses” shares their discoveries and invites personal revelation of the extraordinary capacity of the senses to inform and delight. Within the inclusive environment created for the exhibition, there will be over 40 touchable objects, as well as services, such as audio and visual descriptions of the works on view, to ensure the exhibition will be welcoming to visitors of all abilities, an important step forward in our ongoing commitment to making Cooper Hewitt accessible to everyone.’
Designed to spark curiosity and wonder in every visitor, “The Senses” amplifies the intimate links between design and sensory experience. The projects on view activate touch, sound, smell, taste, sight and physical experience. A digital animation translates bird songs into bursts of color and motion. A light installation changes from cool to warm in response to visitors’ movements. Unusual vessels reveal the sonic and tactile properties of materials. Unique scents merge with materials, textures, and words to build new memories and associations.
The exhibition demonstrates that by opening up to multiple sensory dimensions, designers reach a diverse range of users. Maps that can be touched as well as seen facilitate mobility and knowledge for sighted and non-sighted users. Audio devices translate sound into vibrations that can be felt on the skin. Tableware and kitchen tools use color and form to guide people living with dementia or vision loss. Each encounter with a product or installation activates the creative synergy of brain and body.
For “The Senses,” Cooper Hewitt has developed an accessible exhibition experience that welcomes visitors of all abilities. Exhibition labels will feature key elements in braille, and a custom smartphone app will connect visitors to full-length content via text or audio. Additional accessibility features include T-coil–enabled audio devices and audio descriptions explaining the visual content of videos. The museum now offers two descriptive exhibition tours a week, in which trained museum educators describe the works on view. With “The Senses: Design Beyond Vision,” Cooper Hewitt is testing new ways to share knowledge with diverse audiences; the museum will continue to include these accessibility features in future exhibitions and programs.