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Massive Change at the MCA

By Sarah Dahnke in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 18, 2006 12:24PM

On Friday Chicagoist attended the media preview of Bruce Mau's Massive Change exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and we were absolutely blown away. Never have we attended an exhibit with such tangible impact. Mau and his team of designers present hundreds of feasible ideas to help conserve the planet and the human race and to help us all live the highest quality of life possible. The installation is presented from a designer's perspective, but it does not claim to be art. Mau said Massive Change is not about the visual; it is about humans' capacity to effect change. 2006_9_18_intro.jpg Below are some of the most striking images from the exhibit.

2006_9_18_brucemau.jpg Bruce introduced the exhibit from the entry wall, which contains text about the premise of Massive Change. He explained that while some may view his concepts as a desire to have everything in the world designed, it isn't about that. "It's about understanding our responsibility to designing natural landscapes," he said.

The first room of the exhibit is designed from the citizen's perspective and begins with an exploration of the economy of movement. Several different experimental vehicles, designed to conserve fuel and reduce pollution, are displayed. Mau pointed out that the fact that this sort of experimentation is taking place is not because the traditional car has failed, but because it has succeeded so well. The car pictured is called the Twike and is a bicycle-powered electric car. It can reach a top speed of 53 mph and can go about 100 kilometers for roughly 5 cents.

One of the most informative rooms was based on the theme of urban economy. A five-layered cityscape of solid white was displayed on the wall as a video screen that had accompanying audio, which explained methods currently being explored to bring affordable housing to the entire human race. Manufactured housing does not necessarily have to be a negative, the video explained, as it allows construction to occur quickly and affordably.
2006_9_18_box.jpg This room, based on capitalism, explores why the concept works in the West and is probably the most interactive portion of the installation. The several boxes suspended from the ceiling have questions painted on their sides and project audio dialogue below them that can be heard only if you stand directly under the box. One of the ideas presented in this room is that mortgages allow for better living. In the West, we are able to borrow money against our house as a form of credit to allow us to finance items such as cars and education, and some people never formally own their property. This is not commonplace in other less-developed countries, according to Mau, and because the residents must pay cash for their property, they are often unable to afford housing. 2006_9_18_emspectrum.jpg

This is the electromagnetic spectrum, represented through photographs of everything from wedding parties to microscopic organisms and photos taken from the Hubble telescope. Mau called this a "rendering of life itself." When human life was just beginning, the colors visible to the eye determined if people could see potential threats to their survival. With time, we have been able to develop devices that reach out into invisible wavelengths and convert the invisible into something visible.


This is a booth that allows anyone to vote in favor or against the concept of genetic engineering, and it is similar to other booths located around the room of this section of the exhibit. The booths present compelling arguments for each side of the debate, making it difficult for the voter to make a decision, but also making sure they have solid information for the decision-making process. The featherless chicken, however, is not genetically engineered. Mau said they have developed a concept to breed chickens "the old-fashioned way" by allowing a balding hen to breed with a fully feathered rooster, then vice versa. In theory, their offspring would eventually have fewer and fewer feathers as the breeding process continues, allowing a conservation of energy from plucking machines and saving the planet from additional waste from the feathers.


Massive Change isn't just a series of funky cars and naked chickens. The exhibit causes serious thought on the human impact on the Earth thus far and how to continually improve our contribution. This exhibit is currently displayed concurrently with an exhibit on sustainable architecture and a concept exhibit about bike sharing. We highly recommend a visit to the MCA as soon as possible. Hell, you can even go on a Tuesday, when it is free. Just go. We promise you'll be more inspired than you have been at a museum in a long time.

View even more of Chicagoist's Massive Change photos on Flickr.

All photos by the incredibly handsome and equally talented Alex Fuller.