ExhibitionsModern By Design
Past Exhibition

Modern By Design

June 4 – August 21, 2011

As part of the High’s ongoing collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, Modern by Design presents groundbreaking designs of the past, present, and future.

Digital Matter by Joris Laarman Lab

Over the past several decades, the transition from analog to digital has begun to define an evolution in the way we manufacture, distribute, and recycle products. With the use of robots and other digital fabrication tools, many materials can be used to create a form of “digital matter,” a term used here to describe the three-dimensional realization of digital images through the use of voxels, or volumetric pixels. Robots can perform a variety of tasks, faster and more precisely for longer periods of time than people. With the press of a single button a complex design can be customized, in contrast to traditional manufacturing methods, which require extensive retooling to make the same change. This is due in part to the modular character of the material out of which the object is made, such as Laarman’s voxels.For their installation at the High Museum, Joris Laarman Lab has programmed a robot arm to build ornamented side tables based on a digital blueprint. The video will give you a peek behind the scenes at the Laarman Lab’s process. The robot builds the table upside down, from the top to the legs.The table can be built with varying degrees of detail or resolution, so the smaller the voxel, the higher the resolution. The tables are re-programmable; the high-performance adhesive used to keep the voxels in place can be dissolved, and the voxels can be reassembled and reused to create a different shape without any wasted material.The Joris Laarman Lab was established in 2004 by Joris Laarman and his partner, filmmaker Anita Star. They consider the lab an experimental playground where craftsmen, scientists, engineers, and many other young, motivated people strive to add cultural meaning to technological progress. Their goal is to show the beauty of how things could work using a hands-on approach and a sense of poetry.

Modern By Design Robot 041 O2 1480x987.jpg

To me art, design, and science, although traditionally different, have many similar universal qualities. They express human curiosity and inventiveness in the most profound way. When scientists make use of the freedom and emotional creativity of artists, and artists make use of the skill and discipline of scientists, great things can happen.

Joris Laarman


As part of the High’s ongoing collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, Modern by Design presents groundbreaking designs of the past, present, and future. The exhibition features a selection of works chronicling three key moments in MoMA’s design collection and exhibition history—“Machine Art” (1934); “Good Design” (1950-1955); and “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” (1972). Nearly 150 objects created by over 120 of the most influential artists and designers of the twentieth century are included.

Also on view are a group of late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first–century designs drawn from the High’s own growing permanent collection. Two new major commissioned installations by Dutch designer Joris Laarman and the Japanese design collective nendo are featured: Laarman’s “Digital Matter” and nendo’s “Visible Structures.” In total, eleven artists represent the diversity and international character of the field today.
Featured artists and designers include Ron Arad, FRONT Design, Johanna Grawunder, Zaha Hadid, Hella Jongerius, Patrick Jouin, Shiro Kuramata, Joris Laarman, nendo, Marc Newson, and Ettore Sottsass Jr.