Disappointing is the apparent lack of questioning and exploration in much of the work exhibited by artists and designers with broader name recognition. Though all their work meets a requisite standard of decorative beauty for a museum setting, much of it seems to lack the contextual vibrancy and broader relevancy of the youthful works cited above. Creativity seems mostly gauged by a barometer of difference, myopia, or excess. Often the role of the digital appears as a tack-on to something that could easily have been conceived and executed through nondigital thinking and making. Like decorative masks concealing any countenance of ecology or purpose, the projects employ bio-mockery, or specious chemicals, or precious materials, or expensive processes. In an age of digitally verified provenance, we should be tracking blood diamonds harvested and fossil fuel extracted as we create or enjoy our pleasures. I am sure human desire will always demand $50,000 coffee tables, custom floral silverware, bespoke dressing gowns, jewel-encrusted neckwear, and perhaps concrete houses on the moon (where does the water come from?), but I believe 99% of us won’t want or need these things in our dreams or our futures. We should demand more from gifts of talent or experience and expect museums to broaden their ethical field of view.
Also frustrating is the forced categorization of the exhibition work into a smorgasbord of six themes noted as Modeling Nature, New Geometries, Rebooting Revivals, Remixing the Figure, Pattern as Structure, and Processuality. This seems at odds with the cross-disciplinary intentions of the curation and the observation that most of the works could easily fit into two or more thematic categories. Emerging artists and designers today are defying traditional categories with their hybrid work and process. The accompanying catalog, beautifully designed and produced by Black Dog Publishing, exacerbates the thematic problem by displaying mostly outcomes and not enough process.