The Wolfsonian-FIU Art Basel Miami Beach Reception 2010: Speed Limits. Seduce Me.

For this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach Reception, the Wolfsonian-FIU design museum presented the exhibition “Speed Limits” and the performance art collaboration “Seduce Me” by Isabella Rossellini, Andy Byers, and Rick Gilbert.

In this video we focus on the reception and the exhibiton “Speed Limits” and exchange a few words with Cathy Leff, Director of The Wolfsonian-FIU and the evening’s host, and Dr. Mark B. Rosenberg, President of the Florida International University. In an upcoming episode we focus on “Seduce Me” and talk with Andy Byers and Rick Gilbert (already available for registered members on our Members page).

Speed Limits is an exhibition that explores the role of speed in modern life and celebrates the hundredth anniversary of Italian Futurism. The show asks critical questions about the impact of speed on our daily lives. It presents more than 200 works from the collections of The Wolfsonian and the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). On display are a variety of media, including posters, books, drawings, clocks, paintings, machines and video installations. The exhibition is divided into five key domains. The section “Efficiency” features a remarkable 1936 project by Josef Ehm, an electrically-powered mechanical classifier, allowing workers of the Central Social Institution in Prague to access large-scale card catalogs via mechanized desks on lifts.

Speed Limits is on view through February 20, 2011. The exhibition is co-organized by The Wolfsonian and the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) and is curated by Jeffrey T. Schnapp, CCA Mellon senior fellow and professor at Stanford University.

The Wolfsonian-FIU Art Basel Miami Beach Reception. Interview with Cathy Leff and Mark B. Rosenberg. Interview: Sabine Trieloff. Miami Beach / USA, December 3, 2010.

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From the press release (pdf):

Speed Limits presents more than 200 works from the collections of The Wolfsonian and the CCA and features a variety of media, including posters, books, drawings, clocks, paintings, and video installations. Critical rather than commemorative in spirit, the exhibition explores a single Futurist theme from the standpoint of its contemporary legacies and probes the powers and limits of the modern era’s cult of speed in five key domains: circulation and transit; construction and the built environment; efficiency; the measurement and representation of rapid motion; and the mind/body relationship.

Circulation and Transit
Multiple perceptions of traffic and its models are vital to an understanding of the city and society. The exhibition bears witness to the prevalent dream of an urban space with freely-flowing traffic, and illustrates the concept of the grid or network that governs the movement not only of objects and goods but also of information. This is juxtaposed with the breakdown of circulation””the traffic jam. The overcrowding of city streets is captured in a series of photographs taken by John Veltri in New York City in 1938 and in the print by Benton Spruance from 1937. Visual records are accompanied by archival documents and studies of transportation efficiency and accident patterns related to increasing speeds.

Construction and the Built Environment
Architecture is a motive force behind the speeding-up of life, reflected in the increasing efficiency of construction processes. The phenomenon is illustrated through photographic sequences capturing the erection of the Irving Trust Building (New York), the Eiffel Tower (Paris), and Rem Koolhaas’s China Central Television building (Beijing). The fast pace of construction of these and other buildings can be analyzed by studying dated sequential images. Prefabrication served as a major drive towards increasing construction efficiency, and is represented by various trade catalogs of homes and other building types, as well as photographs documenting their assembly.

Examining how notions of efficient production evolved over time, the exhibition focuses on two types of space transformed by speed, one public and the other domestic: the office and the kitchen. Filing systems, processors, and office furniture play a central role making work spaces fast and efficient. A remarkable 1936 project by Josef Ehm features an electrically-powered mechanical classifier, allowing workers of the Central Social Institution in Prague to access large-scale card catalogs via mechanized desks on lifts. The exhibition also includes photographs by Balthazar Korab that capture the modernized workspaces of the 1960s, as well as studies of the productivity of workers and their equipment such as Frank B. Gilbreth’s films of American workers in the 1910s and ’20s. Photographs of Christine Frederick show her testing and demonstrating kitchen efficiencies in the early 20th century, when electrification, new equipment and appliances, and a redesigned space increase the speed of domestic activities. Alongside commercial artifacts and documentation, the exhibition includes architects’ studies such as drawings by Le Corbusier analyzing kitchen dimensions.

The Measurement and Representation of Rapid Motion
Addressing the cognitive challenges with which humanity is surrounded, the exhibition features material about information compression through strata of signs, signals and messages, or diagrams that reduce complex traffic data to a usable visual representation. Increasingly, humans are processing complex overlapping of information including time and related data. This growth is reflected in a collection of clocks illustrating the tempo of modern life, and the increasing sophistication and number of instruments and devices that measure motion: accelerometers, altimeters, odometers, speedometers.
Also presented are posters and graphics whose design captures the notion of speed in order to more effectively promote cars, tires, oils, and other products or services built celebrating new levels of speed.

The Mind/Body Relationship
The exhibition suggests different ways in which acceleration is associated on the one hand with pleasure””ecstasy, the search for powerful sensations, and overstimulation””and on the other with exhaustion, risk, and injury. Representations of the body in motion include the transformation of the body itself into a speeding object, gymnastics and popular athleticism in the early 20th century, the current cult of the body, natural and artificial improvements in physical culture, stimulants and tranquilizers, and the remedies associated with stimulants. Among speed’s pharmaceutical avatars are caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, and the active ingredients in energy drinks.

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