A new exhibit looks at the Design of Safety

An upcoming exhibit at the MoMA, SAFE: Design Takes on Risk, looks at the design and meaning of security. In Metropolis Magazine, an inteview with Paola Antonelli, the woman who is curating the exhibit:

[MM] You’ve mentioned cultural elements that came into play when researching concepts of safety. Can you tell me more about the differences you found?

[Antonelli] It’s all about culture, as contemporary design’s closest scholarly ally is anthropology. So for example, in Israel safety means rubber-sealed shelters to protect from blasts and chemicals. In Bangladesh it means finding drinkable water. In South Africa it means spreading awareness about AIDS and beating the government’s efforts to tell people that HIV drugs have no effect. In other parts of Africa it means providing moveable hospitals that don’t look like hospitals, so others don’t identify the women that go to them as HIV-positive or disease carriers. Here in the United States it means understanding what safety is for you and what it is for companies.

How do politics affect these designs?

Design and politics are intertwined, but often seem far from each other because the aesthetics of design neutralize the political discussion that you can have about it. But when you talk about safety, politics goes splat in the middle of the discussion. For instance, homeless shelters are all about politics; and with refugees, they are displaced persons, and that involves the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. When you get to safety and bulletproofing, that immediately becomes Homeland Security or activism. When you get to property, well, it’s the kind of politics you have at home.