New Order at MoMA review: artists chart a world in motion | Art and design


To think computers were not supposed to make it to the new millennium. MoMA’s New Order: Art and Technology in the 21st Century never mentions the Y2K bug, although perhaps it should have. The 21st century has never been without the strange panic with which it began.

Presenting art made between 2000 and 2017, New Order starts in the immediate aftermath of Y2K, which turned out to be no big deal. While the old order was manufactured and full of junctures, the new order desires seamlessness. Generations have integrated industrial and postindustrial technologies into their lives. The old order was built; the new order is born.

New Order takes care to remember its ancestors. Henry Ford, whose great-great grandchildren now are in their 50s, can be found in the helical parts of Tauba Auerbach’s 3D-printed table Altar/Engine. Camille Henrot’s tar-, sand- and epoxy-crusted installation Augmented Objects considers not how things are made but how they are sold.

Altar/Engine, 2015 by Tauba Auerbach.

Altar/Engine, 2015 by Tauba Auerbach. Photograph: © 2019 Tauba Auerbach, courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

New Order includes work by several artists who are critical of technology’s profiteering: Trevor Paglen’s It Began as a Military Experiment refers to the history of facial-recognition technology, while Harun Farocki’s Eye/Machine I cuts between a packaging centre – logistics “began as a military experiment”, supply-chaining munitions and men – and a man in a control room, his hand on the console. People are not people in his Eye/Machine I – they are civilians.

Louise Bourgeois’s adjacent untitled holograms create their own medical moving images. Each hologram is lit by a red laser, casting red shadow pools on the gallery floor. The holograms contain cages and chairs inside bell jars, each like a view into cells of torture and testing. It is one of several “experimental” works turning New Order’s second room into a laboratory. Among them, the seven vitrines of Anicka Yi’s Shameplex, filled with ultrasound gel that has been acupunctured by pins. As the pins rust, they appear to draw blood.

Josh Kline’s Skittles, 2014.

Josh Kline’s Skittles, 2014. Photograph: Jonathan Muzikar/The Museum of Modern Art, New York

The science of technology is perhaps most obviously scientific in the realm of healthcare – an industry that is the subject of Josh Kline’s Skittles, in which a fridge of smoothies bottled feature enticing ingredient labels (Mr Clean, money order, medical scrubs, french fries, toilet paper, latex gloves, phone card, pennies). In the next room, Sondra Perry’s exercise equipment installation is also about lifestyle, labour, and the mindless exploitation of our bodies. Visitors are encouraged to ride the machines, experiencing fitness as a luxury the same as the fine arts. “What time is it?” Perry’s avatar wonders on one of the bike’s screens. “Sondra only asks because [pause] you are in a gallery and it’s the middle of the day … how many jobs do you have?”

Imagining how objectively technology experiences the world, Leslie Thornton’s Luna is a kaleidoscopic video of the Parachute Jump amusement ride – which began as a military experiment – on New York City’s Coney Island. Time-lapsing through media from black-and-white colour film up to digital video, Luna is a reminder of how technology marks and dates itself. Technology’s future might be difficult to predict, but its past is easy to put a finger on.

New Order’s greater obsession is not where technology comes from but where we do. Josephine Pryde’s It’s Not My Body XII is an MRI image of a human embryo superimposed over a magenta desert landscape. Technology reveals what we are on the inside: during an ultrasound, mother and doctor look not at the mother’s stomach but at the screen. A lifetime later, a flat note from a machine is more final than the lack of a pulse.

Before visitors exit the automatic glass doors, they pass Rodney McMillian’s wall-sized work Succulent. Thick vinyl folds cinch around a gaping centre. There is a lot to admire in it, something sublime. This is our verification check. Cyborgs, as philosopher Donna Haraway says, are not reverent. They do not remember the cosmos.

At the Museum of Modern Art, New York, until 15 June.

Harun Farocki’s Eye/Machine I, 2001.

Harun Farocki’s Eye/Machine I, 2001. Photograph: © 2019 Harun Farocki Filmproduktion

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