“Imagine a Room...”
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Concept for a MOMA Exhibit
This paper outlines a concept for an exhibit in 2008 in New York City for MOMA on the theme of collective genius. An early description of the intent of this exhibit is provided below. For some of my first preliminary thoughts on a design concept GoTo “Imagine a Room...” on my Abscapes page.
This concept is the result a few e-mails, a phone call and a one hours visit with MOMA staff a month of thinking and a few days of design. We, Gail and myself, were originally contacted because of our work creating the WorkSpace [future link:] for the Annual Meeting [future link:] of the World economic Forum. My first idea was focused on the concept of the Exhibit as a whole. I proposed a three iteration process: the first, pulling creative scientists and designers together to create the exhibit; the second, the Exhibit itself being iterative with the public attending engaging in a design process that was captured; the third, creating the book to document the entire experience. This would be an emergent experience. The basic process would be a Glass Bead Game [future link:] (created in the first iteration) focused on some theme/subject and “played” by the attending public. While considered interesting, these ideas were considered too unpredictable and open ended and, perhaps, not as eloquent a work of art as would be fitting a major Museum exhibit. I did not consider concerns these as major problems, however, I came to see that this approach was likely too big a risk given the available space, time to prepare the exhibit, the deadline to publish the catalog, and the lack of authority associated with our work. The persistent question, all along, was “can you make the collaborative process visual?” Of course we can, this is what we do from the architecture [future link:], to the furniture [future link:], to the knowledge objects [future link:] to the documentation [future link:]. How to show this without doing an event in a Taylor NavCenter? Also how to do this in a way that is not merely a show of our work - instead, create an exhibit which address the larger issues - both scientific and artistic - and which points to an open-ended future with our work only serving as an example and proof-of-concept. The specifications, as I understand them, are that it be visual, that it be art, that it involve the integration of science and design, that it have an element of interaction. Some ideas that were being pursued were shared with me and I came to the conclusion that MOMA was going to have several teams develop different concepts and then bind these together in some way that produces an unified concept. This is just an inference but I expect a good one. Their concept of the exhibit is still evolving and this is a good sign.
With this concept, descrived below, I shifted my attention from thinking about the exhibit as a whole to the Taylor Method itself - its origins and techniques - and how these can be expressed and experienced as art and thereby form a useful aspect of the exhibition. This is not my first choice as I think it would be more exciting to, as proposed, employ the Method to create a broad based collaborative effort to demonstrate the broader thesis as well as show it. With this new approach, however, we can be a recursion within the greater whole and achieve the goal on a modest scale.
It was tempting to conclude that this was the “right opportunity at the wrong time” and that is was perhaps better to let go of it. This notion, also, gave way for the simple reason that our work is, objectively, the most sophisticated and wide-spread in its capacity of facilitating GroupGenius - and knowing how and why as a systematic process - as well as how to transfer the ability to do so. We do this with a level of visual art, scientific acumen and architectural grace that is exceedingly rare. In other words, we belong in this exhibit even if the odds of being there are not great.
Unquestionably, the Taylor System and Method is unique in many ways. It is based on Cybernetics, Systems Theory, Mind-Brain Theory and what has become to be known as Complexity Theory - it did not grow out of pre-systems thinking, learning, facilitation and management theories and practices. Our thinking on this goes back to the early 60s and it grew out of this these new sciences. The Taylor Method is mature and widely practiced, globally, generating, annually, direct fees in the tens of millions while being bundled - with follow on work - in the hundreds of millions involving consequences in the billions of dollars. It has dealt with complex problems spanning continents, multiple organizations of different kinds and issues involving technology, social policy, business organization - all in combination. Tens of scores of organization and nearly a million individuals have experienced this process. It has an US Patent. Yet... it is not widely known nor are we recognized, widely, as experts in any of the dozen fields of endeavor which were systemically integrated in order to create the Method and its practice. This fact is the consequence of an deliberate under-the-radar-profile policy has been adhered to from the beginning of the practice in 1980. There have been a few publications on this work and all of these came to us - they were not promoted. The Taylor web sites have been the only systematic outreach and they are not “commercially” oriented with the exception of some minor aspects of the AI site. This policy has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, all of our work opportunities come from repeat business and word-of-mouth so client-partners tend to be well qualified from the beginning. We do not have a high profile so there is little noise about us, small controversy and little competition of the unsavory kind (“good” competition is welcomed). At the same time, we have a certain recognition of having pioneered our field and it can be truthfully said that if someone wants an environment and process that truly augments collaboration and does not “find” us then they have not done their homework. We are not affiliated with any movement or large institution therefore carry little baggage. There is not much to prevent us from doing what we have to do when we have to do it. We do not function comfortably in a world where profit and non-profit efforts are distinct. We are a for-profit company but not “commercial” - it is the Mission and the work which is important to us - profit is the (possible) consequence of having done it well. We are idealistic and principled and this is the source of virtually all of the negative feedback we receive in today’s world. Our thinking is long-range and spans decades.
Each of the “advantages” have their downside risk...
It occurs to me that for MOMA to make us part of an exhibit involves risks for them and it will take unusual discernment and not a little bravery for them to do it. No matter. Whatever their decision be it artistic or philosophical in nature - or because of cultural circumstances - they remain the great institution they are and we remain firm in our concept of practice [link: practice]. This may be the time and it may not be the time - I cannot judge this. Only they can do so from the perspective of a social institution.
All this aside, the idea is compelling IMAGINE A ROOM!...
The Concept
The Three Phases
Advancing the Art
This concept can be a material advancement of the art in several ways. Conceptually, the integration of architecture, science, art and multimedia can achieve a new level. And while not didactic, the depths of learning, that can be derived from it, is only limited by the time an individual invests in the process - levels of information, and potential perceptual-experiencing, can be organized in a way never done before.
Collaboration, collective genius, GroupGenius - whatever you want to call it - is not, in itself, well represented in our society. Most of what is asserted about it is false-to-fact and it does not have a good name. Neither, the philosophy, science or practice of it is explained and demonstrated to an significant degree. I think that MOMA will have little problem finding good examples of works that are the consequence of their thesis. I expect, it will be a far greater challenge to find the people experienced in the practices, who know the subject and can illustrate-demonstrate it effectively in a way the teaches, impresses and inspires. It is one thing to know about something, another to demonstrate it and yet another to transfer this as knowledge so that is is useful to someone. In the domain of an exhibit, this can only be accomplished as ART. This requires a level of integration that has not been achieved before. This also requires the sum of 10,000 years of human capability not just an explication of the latest “hot” discoveries and ideas. This is not a subject that our society or time has a monopoly on.
Matt Taylor
June 2, 2007

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posted: June 2, 2007
revised: June 7, 2007

• 20070602.333333.mt 20070607.343430.mt •

 note: this document is about 5% finished
Copyright© Matt Taylor 2007


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