Welcome to the Fiber Age.

The new exhibition at the Holon Design Museum takes a futuristic look at the very fabric of society.

Smiling Car311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Smiling Car311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Imust admit that I was reluctant at first to visit the Senseware exhibition at the Holon Design Museum (“What do I know about design? – I’m no expert,” I thought to myself ), but the first installation reduced me to a pulp. It is a water-repellent fabric with the name of the exhibition written on it in water droplets. Once the drops get too big, they roll down the tilted fabric and new drops replace them. It’s beautiful – and very cool.
Around the corner, cinder blocks reflect what’s happening behind them via optical wires woven into them, and a bench lights up when you approach it. That’s the beauty of the Design Museum – you don't have to be a design whiz to enjoy it.
These fibers are the focus of the new exhibition – artificial fibers that are superior to their natural counterparts in gentleness, sensitivity, stability and flexibility.
The theme is the relationship between artificial nature and manmade products. As such, you can find such installations as a robot that cleans the floor but moves around like a worm or an artificial bed on which natural hyssop grows. These fibers are Japanese at their core. We might be familiar with some of these fibers from such products as baby wipes, but who would think of making life-size statues or lampshades from them? The Japanese would.
“To me, the term ‘senseware’ indicates any familiar thing that inspires our sensory perceptions. I use ‘ware’ as it is used in ‘hardware’ and ‘software,’” says exhibition director Kenya Hara.
“Take the implements of the Stone Age, for example. If I grip in my hand a stone axe from a period removed from us by 400,000 years, it becomes obvious to me why human beings used stone objects. The weight, the hardness and the texture of stone all appeal to us humans.
“For no less than one million years, humans transmitted from generation to generation the form of a single stone axe. It is difficult for us today to wrap our minds around the time and the endeavor of this continuous inheritance, spanning tens of thousands of generations, of the form of a single tool. But when we actually touch the tool itself, we intuitively know with our very beings why the weight, hardness and palpable texture of stoneware inspired the human senses that drove the culture of the Stone Age. Even today, I feel a thrill handling these tools. This feeling is like an impulse that incites us to create.”
So now I guess we can now say that we’re in the Fiber Age. Those artificial fibers are so advanced that they act like skin cells. There are nanofibers whose thickness is 1/7500 that of a human hair; carbon fibers that are flexible and strong but unusually light; electronic fibers that transport electricity; fibers that can be designed into 3D forms – and much more. One of my favorite pieces was a surgeon’s mask shaped like a real face.
Due to the nature of the fibers, they can be shaped easily in many ways. Thus the cold, sterile mask becomes more friendly. I was thinking of patients feeling less fearful of their surgeons, but the creators of the mask thought of the Japanese wearing those masks in the street to protect them from airborne germs.
And once again I’m left wondering what, from all this futuristic fabrication, will catch on? Hopefully, the smiling car. Check it out. You’ll be smiling, too.
The exhibition continues until September 4th.The Holon Design Museum Tel: (03) 215-1500.
Web site: www.dmh.org.il