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Terra Schema

The exhibit was co-organized and is showing in conjunction with the Cube design museum in Kerkrade, Netherlands. Featuring over 60 works from 62 collaborations of artists, researchers, scientists, and designers from around the world, the product is just as sharp as it is thorough.


“Looking at nature … I think there’s a real desire on part of all of those different parties to collaborate, to think about solutions for how we’re repairing our planet [and] how we’re creating design that has an opportunity to do meaningful change in the world,” said Caitlin Condell, one of the exhibition’s curators and head of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt.


Above: Tranceflora, 2015–19; Sputniko! (Hiromi Ozaki) (Japanese, b. 1985) and Masaya Kushino (Japanese, b. 1982), Another Farm (Tokyo, Japan), in collaboration with National Agricultural and Research Organization (NARO) (Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, founded 2006) and Hosoo (Kyoto, Japan, founded 1688); Glowing transgenic silk; Photo by So Morimoto; and Installation photo by Matt Flynn.


This nature exhibit is nothing like what you would find in a biology textbook or on a grade school field trip. Many of the works highlight the dazzling and awe-inspiring elements of the world around us. One of the most striking works of the exhibition is “Fantasma,” which features glowing dresses made from silk worm cocoons created by AnotherFarm and National Agriculture and Research Organization, both based in Japan. Displayed in a dark room stranding alone, the two dresses float back-to-back in midair like apparitions with an otherworldly glow. 


Another standout from the exhibit is “Curiosity Cloud,” an interactive display of over 200 handmade bugs inside of mouth-blown glass bulbs created by Austrian designers Katharina Mischer and Thomas Traxler (mischer’traxler studio.) The piece mimics the experience of being amongst these creatures. As the viewer walks through the hanging glass bulbs, they light up and the insects flutter around, hitting the sides of the glass as if trying to escape. In an interview at the exhibit press preview, Traxler explained that this work speaks to different sides of our effect on nature. “[I]t’s a mixture of conservatory … because they are in this glass, they are on the one hand protected but on the other hand also kind of enclosed.”

Installation photo of "Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial." Photo: Matt Flynn.
Drawing, Floating Icebergs Under Cloudy Skies, 1859 Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900) Brush and oil, graphite on paperboard 30.5 × 50.8 cm (12 × 20 in.) Gift of Louis P. Church, 1917-4-305-a Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution.
Stencil: Waves, Fishing Nets, and Pine Leaves (Japan) Late 19th–early 20th century Mulberry paper (kozo washi) treated with fermented persimmon juice (kakishibu), and silk threads (itoire) 23 9/16 × 15 7/8 in. (59.8 × 40.3 cm) Museum purchase through gift of Norvin Hewitt Green, 1946-104-6 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution.
Nanobionic Plant Project: Ambient Illumination, 2016–ongoing; Michael Strano (American, b. 1975), Seon-Yeong Kwak (Korean, b. 1983), and Pavlo Gordiichuk (Ukrainian, b. 1986), MIT Chemical Engineering (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, founded 1888) and Sheila Kennedy (American, b. 1959), Ben Widger (American, b. 1984), Anne Graziano (American, b. 1993), Jeffrey Landman (United Kingdom, b. 1988), Karaghen Hudson (American, b. 1995), Zain Karsan (Canadian, b. 1991), and Patrick Weber (German, b. 1994), MIT Architecture (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, founded 1932), KVA (Boston, Massachusetts, USA, founded 1990); Nanobionic watercress plants; Dimensions variable; Courtesy of MIT Professor S. Kennedy & Professor M. Strano Research Groups.
Shawl (India for European market) ca. 1860 Cashmere wool double-interlocked twill tapestry with embroidered borders, woven in sections and pieced Bequest of Harmon H. Goldstone 2002-2-1 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution.
Rosa canina Model, 1875-1898; Manufactured by R. Brendel & Co. (Berlin, Germany); wood, papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster, reed pith, metal, string, feathers, gelatin, glass and bone glue beads, cloth, metallic thread, horsehair, hemp, or silk threads, paint, and shellac varnish; Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Embroidery sample (probably Lyon, France); ca. 1770; satin, stem and knot stitches embroidered in silk on silk cut voided supplementary warp pile (velvet); paper enclosure; H x W: 29 x 18 cm (11 7/16 x 7 1/16 in.); Museum purchase from Au Panier Fleuri Fund; 1932-1-14; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution.
Carrying cloth, Nazca/Wari, 600 – 1000 C.E. Wool plain weave with supplementary warp and weft patterning; dyed with cochineal 61 × 58.4 cm (24 × 23 in.) Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Museum purchase through gift of Jacques Seligmann, 1946-59-1 Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution.
Brisé Fan (China), 1850–60; Carved tortoiseshell sticks, silk ribbon, tortoiseshell washer, metal loop; H x W (open); 23.5 x 39.4 cm (9 1/4 x 15 1/2 in.); Gift of Clarence Hoblitzelle, 1912-10-7; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution.
RYB Vessel, 2016; Designed and manufactured by Rutger de Regt (Dutch, b. 1979) and Marlies van Putten (Dutch, b. 1990), Handmade Industrials (The Hague, Netherlands); Capa™ 6800 bioplastic (caprolactone) pellets colored with synthetic and mineral pigments then heat molded; H x W x D: 39.4 × 30.5 × 26.7 cm (15 1/2 in. × 12 in. × 10 1/2 in.); Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund, 2018-43-1; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution.
The Substitute, a CG animation and visualization of the extinct male northern white rhino created by The Mill, with behavior based on research by DeepMind. Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, 2019.
Nacadia Therapy Forest Garden, 2011–ongoing; Hoersholm Arboretum, Hoersholm, Denmark; Ulrika K. Stigsdotter (Swedish, b. 1971); University of Copenhagen (Copenhagen, Denmark, founded 1479); Photo by Ulrik Sidenius.

'Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial' is on view through January 20th, 2020. All images courtesy Cooper Hewitt. Lead image: Bleached (II), 2018; Erez Nevi Pana (Israeli, active in Austria, b. 1983); Salt-crystallized loofah over a wooden structure; 77.5 x 55 x 56 cm (30 1/2 x 21 5/8 x 22 1/16 in.); © Friedman Benda and Erez Nevi Pana. 

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