MoMA exhibit looks at safety and comfort in design

Some people worry about getting blisters from new shoes, others about how to get the arsenic out of their drinking water.

From the mundane to the dire, product designers have responded to those concerns, creating objects that reflect our needs for security and comfort, both physical and psychological, a new exhibition shows. "Safe: Design Takes on Risk" opens Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art and runs through Jan. 2.

Through more than 300 objects from around the world, both prototypes and those actually in use, the exhibition is meant to get viewers thinking about a couple of different things, said curator Paola Antonelli.

She hopes people will emerge with a new interest in looking at the design all around them and seeing how objects are shaped to respond to particular needs or desires, and will consider how people's fears can differ based on the circumstances of where they live.

"You go through a gamut of fears ... from the paper cut to genocide, and all are presented without any kind of judgment," Antonelli said.

The range of items in the show is dizzying. There's the adhesive bandage that helps heal and protect blisters. The clay pot and filter that can take arsenic out of water. A bullet-resistant face mask.

Some are practical _ camouflage outfits in a pattern and color that can be used in different environments, a chair with a hook around the leg for the sitter's bag to keep it away from thieves, the armbands used by international aid workers to clearly label a child's level of malnutrition.

Others appear somewhat more conceptual _ a purple, egg-shaped container made of felt, meant to restore the feeling of being in the womb; a plastic cloak-type garment that can be stretched into a tent, a bedside table that can be taken apart and turned into a shield and bat in case of unwelcome intruders.

The original idea was a show that would focus on design in relation to emergency response and medical equipment, Antonelli said, but broadened after Sept. 11.

"All of a sudden, I started thinking that things happen, they're really tough. There's no design object that can cancel the pain but what design can do is to give solace," Antonelli said. "Sometimes, it can really solve problems. But in any situation, it's really about making human beings feel safe and more comfortable and just giving them a better life as much as possible."

Expanding the scope made the show better, said MoMA director Glenn Lowry. "The exhibition ... grew into something far more sophisticated and far more interesting.", AP reported. V.A.

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