Encountering the ‘New Order’ at MoMA

What differentiates the work in “New Order: Art and Technology in the Twenty-First Century” from much of the art elsewhere at the Museum of Modern Art is that the objects here are made with technologies most of us already know and love (or hate). Flat screens, computer interfaces, video games, digital animation, 3D-printing and photography are transformed here into sprawling installations, canny video art or interactive sculptures.

The work in “New Order” is drawn entirely from MoMA’s collection and organized by Michelle Kuo, who became a curator at the museum last year after serving as editor in chief at Artforum magazine for seven years. The exhibition is meant to demonstrate how much of the technology we think of as invisible — waves, wireless or abstract code — is still rooted in physical objects. And the artists, with varying success, are intent on showing us technology’s blind spots and limitations, while opening up new possibilities for its use.

Much of the art here draws a line in the sand between technology’s use in design and gadgetry. Some of the more compelling works consider how, for example, technology augments the human body, promising better health, longevity or happiness but rarely delivering on the promise. Josh Kline’s “Skittles” (2014), a large commercial refrigerator at the entrance, is stocked with smoothies in invitingly minimalist packaging. Approaching the refrigerator, however, you see the ingredients listed and they include indigestible components like chopped-up credit cards, magazines and sneakers, or a toxic cocktail mixing cold medicine, energy drinks, pain relievers and psychiatric medications.

Around the corner, you can jump on two exercise machines and activate Sondra Perry’s workstation videos that show her avatar, as well as digital images of J.M.W. Turner’s “The Slave Ship” (1840). The juxtaposition injects a discussion of the black body in the African diaspora that’s often missing in many technology forums.

Beyond that is Jacolby Satterwhite’s neo-psychedelic, gay- and sex-positive animation featuring candy-colored bodies dancing and morphing into other beings, as well as Anicka Yi’s somewhat less successful series of vitrines with nickel-plated pins rusting in a bath of ultrasonic gel, simulating human blood. (Ms. Yi’s videos, not on view here, engage more effectively than her sculptures with biotechnology and its effect on all species.)

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