It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Manhattan, Museums, and a Student Show

The day after the last class project was due we headed to Manhattan for a long weekend of museums and shows.

The highlight for me was going to the student show for NYU’s ITP school. ITP is a 2 year program in computational art and design, that is, integrating computers into art and the design process. Their mission statement actually says it is “to explore the imaginative use of communications technologies […]”, but mission statements don’t always accurately describe what people really do in a program. It was one of the reasons we were making the trip, but not the main reason and I really didn’t know what to expect given the sorts of student shows I’ve been to in the past. But I left the ITP show feeling both inspired and a little embarrassed at the quality of my own work of late.

In somewhat random order, here were some of my favorite works out of the ~100 that must have been on display:

Felted signal processing: It turns out that felt made from wool and steel wool has interesting electrical characteristics and can be used to control music effects in realtime. Best business card: email address on a slip of paper stapled to some wool.

EMBrace, a tool for translating Hertzian space to the physical space. I wish I could have worn it around a bit just to see how it worked, but the demo was pretty informative.

soft pneumatic exoskeleton, which is exactly what you’d expect, given the name. I stumbled across Che-Wei Wang’s website a few months ago while looking for Arduino information. The guy is not only a machine, he has one of the best student websites I’ve seen recently.

networked wildfire dectors. Networked, self-organizing wildfire detectors that are simple enough to distribute as a kit for kids to build in school. I wonder how many real-world, useful, no artsy-bits-at-all projects like this come out of a typical first-year ITP class project. If you’re in a wildfire-prone area and involved with a childrens’/science museum, you need to work with this guy. (I’m talking to you, Oakland and SoCal.)

We also hit a few museums: Cooper, the Met and the MOMA. The MOMA show, “Design and the Elastic Mind” was half the reason for this trip, and it didn’t disappoint. Thankfully, the MOMA didn’t enforce an idiotic “no-cameras” rule, so I got a lot of good photos to go along with the catalog that I bought. Their permanent collection is also pretty amazing, so I was able to take a lot of useful photos for my swipe file. If you couldn’t make the show, the catalog for the exhibit is totally worth the money. I bought one just because it had so much more information than the little placards by the exhibits. (Also, I think I’m going to try and get everyone I know who had work in the show to sign my copy on “their” page…)

I’d never been to the Met before, so just being in the physical building was cool, like the first time I went into Grand Central Station. You spend your entire life seeing these places in the movies but being there is completely different and not something that could easily be replicated with VR. Your eyes have to physically re-adjust and focus at things that are much father away than things typically are in a building. Sadly, the reason we went to the Met — the superhero costume exhibit — was a bit underwhelming. It was mostly fashion that’s already been on catwalks grouped with a handful of famous costumes. Of course, the Met banned photography for this exhibit, so I couldn’t get any good photos of the famous costumes on display. Adding to the annoyance, the catalog for the show was iffy at best. However, the massively amazing collection of stuff the Met has made up for the superhero exhibit and I was able to get a lot of reference photos of medieval and Japanese art.

And the Cooper? Disappointing, but that’s partially my fault. I’d just assumed that their extensive collections were at least partially on display, but they aren’t. You have to contact them at least two weeks in advance and make an appointment. Had I known that, maybe I’d have had a chance to see something cool, but instead I ended up paying to see the three current exhibitions, two of which did nothing for me. The vast majority of the space was used for a Rococo (my least favorite period?) exhibit while the “product sampler” exhibit (what a cool idea) was stuffed into the basement (bad idea).

Due to poor planning we didn’t get to go to the Museum of Sex, but maybe next trip out we’ll manage it.

The rest of the trip was fun — we did obligatory things like shopping in soho, riding the trains and going to Times Square on Saturday night where we got trapped in massive crowds there to see Will Smith shooting a movie. The new Kinokuniya is way cool, the W Court is a great hotel, and almost every meal we had was excellent. It must be terrible having to decide between Nobu and Blue Ribbon Sushi when you want to go out for a treat. On the other hand, Hane Sushi (on 3rd at 38th) at half the price, was probably three-quarters as good as either.

As much as there is to do and as much fun as it is, I don’t think I could ever live in Manhattan. To begin with, I didn’t realize that automobile horns are legally a “deadman switch” in NYC and that you have to keep honking or your car will automatically turn off. And I get that space is at a premium, but damn things are crammed in tight. I used the restroom in one cafe where I could barely get in past the open door then close it behind me, and I’m not what anyone would consider overweight. Much of the city reminded me of the military submarine and ship tours I’ve been on — no wasted space and get used to being up-close-and-personal with people every moment you are not in your bunk.

The cost of visiting Manhattan might be quite expensive in the long run. We made reservations a couple of weeks in advance, so we got a table at a decent time at Nobu. I had the omakase at Nobu paired with a dry nama nigori — an amazing meal worth every last penny. So now that I’ve been to Morimoto and Nobu, I need to get to Japan and have omakase at Kaishoku Michiba and Koumei Ariake so I can decide for myself who truly is the best Iron Chef Japanese.

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posted by jet at 21:03  

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