[VIDEO] Code ≠ Oil Paint: Video Games at MoMA

TED Talk Tuesday – “Paola Antonelli: Why I brought Pac-Man to MoMA”

The Museum of Modern Art’s senior curator for architecture and design, Paola Antonelli, took quite a risk when she made the decision to bring video games to the museum’s Design collection. She was met with mixed reviews; art critics loathed it, designers and gamers rejoiced. In this TED Talk she makes clear her reasons for doing so, and they have nothing to do with art. With this collection she is primarily concerned with conveying the importance of good Interaction Design. And video games made a natural choice to her, because Antonelli believes, “video games are the purist form of Interaction Design.”

Her decision to “annoint” video games and other forms of Interaction Design by including them in MoMA set off a firestorm of controversy among too-serious art critics who conflated Pac-Man with Picasso. She is not necessarily trying to elevate it to high art, or even arguing that it should be elevated. Because as she points out:

“Designers don’t aspire to be artists…they aspire to be really great designers.”

It is no surprise, then, that design and tech writers were the first to come to her defense. They understood what she was trying to do – establish a method for properly curating and classifying carefully chosen examples of Interaction Design so we may appreciate their importance within a wider understanding of Design. And they supported her decision because they know what she knows – that while designers may not aspire to be artists, there is an artistry to what they do. Good design, and especially good interactive design, is emotional and evocative and reflects the times in which we live.

Antonelli declares, “Design is the highest form of creative expression…it is everything that is around us in life.” Interaction Design shows us what it means to be alive and engaged. And if that isn’t artistic and worthy of being collected and preserved, I don’t know what is.


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