October 21, 2019 - January 26, 2020

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Energy is the indispensable fuel of life for all species. For humans, it has become almost an addiction. The search for new sources of energy and the exploitation of existing ones have driven progress, formed and informed cultures, transfigured landscapes, and ignited wars. Throughout the 20th century, everything from objects to buildings and entire cities was conceived to maximize immediate output and productivity. Modern architecture and design were powered by electricity, and linked to energy production and distribution. In order to secure energy, we have deforested, drilled, mined, extracted, removed mountaintops, and terraformed the planet.

In the 21st century, many designers have become aware of their role and responsibility in these disruptive activities, and have adjusted their practices accordingly. If in the past design led us to devour energy at an ever-growing rate, design can now help us conserve it and behave more responsibly. The objects presented here engage with energy in its myriad forms—from thermal and kinetic to electrical and even reproductive. They represent its sourcing, deployment, consumption, and preservation. They showcase the technological advancements of the past decades, while proposing alternatives for a future in which resources might not be as readily available.

Organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Anna Burckhardt, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.


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