‘Here in Israel, we tend to blame the younger generation for choosing to go to a restaurant or concert over a museum,’ says Maya Dvash, chief curator at Design Museum Holon. ‘But they do this because of the need to have an experience – something that wasn’t previously fulfilled by the classic museum visit.’
Dvash and her team are on a mission to change this, filling Israel's premier design hub with immersive displays to touch, play with and hear, eschewing stuffy glass cabinets and library-quiet galleries. Recall the virtual reality units at the ‘eyewear through the ages' display last year, or Ron Arad's digital experimentations with crushed cars back in 2013.
For the museum's landmark summer exhibition, ‘Sound and Matter in Design’, interactivity is built into the very fabric of the building. Ron Arad's sweeping Corten steel walls have been dotted with speakers, emitting sounds controlled by the visitors themselves. Split into three parts, the exhibition comprises ‘Sensing Sound’, created and curated by Anat Safran and Lila Chitayat along with eight other sound artists and the Upper Gallery exhibition; ‘Seeing Sound’, curated by Anat Safran, Lila Chitayat and Elisabetta Pisu.
'Cube Radio TS505', by Richard Sapper and Marco Zanuso, 1977. Photography: Brionvega
The exhibition comes at a moment of flux and reinvention in the world of audio design, as interconnectivity and portability become design priorities. ‘These days, we can listen to music everywhere, we are still able to hear, but we have been de-sensitised to sound, and are losing the ability to listen properly,’ says Dvash. ‘Our exhibition gives a place to a very special way of listening. Listening with attention.’
Our ears are pricked. The lower gallery is filled with a ‘Sensing Sound' installation. Built specifically to connect us to sounds we would normally block out, it ‘aims to teach us how to listen again’, says Dvash. The installation includes original sound works, translated into visual representations influenced by the movement of visitors.
The Upper Gallery houses over 50 objects designed from the 1960s to the present, divided into three categories: stationary, mobile, and interactive objects, which exemplify the conceptual shift from object design to the design of a user experience.
It's a change reflected by the museum's own, ever-growing emphasis on audience engagement. ‘The modern exhibit attender wants more than to just see, they want to understand,' Dvash explains. ‘“Sound and Matter in Design” does just that, it gives the visitor not just a didactic tour of the museum, but rather the whole experience.’