Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary

Jill Townsley (Artist), David Revere McFadden (Curator), Lowry Stokes Sims (Curator), Brian Parkes (Curator)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


This Groundbreaking Exhibition Explores Global Trend of Transforming Ordinary Mass-Produced Objects into One-Of-A-Kind Works of Art

The Museum of Arts and Design inaugurates its new home at Columbus Circle with Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary, a special thematic exhibition featuring 54 contemporary artists from 18 countries who transform discarded, commonplace, or valueless objects into extraordinary works of art. On view from September 27 through March, 2009, Second Lives includes new commissions and site-specific installations, created from gun triggers, spools of thread, tires, hypodermic needles, dog tags, old eyeglasses, and telephone books, among other manufactured and mass-produced objects. Highlighting the creative processes that re-purpose these objects, the exhibition explores the transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary and stimulates debate on function, value, and identity.

“Reflecting the Museum’s core mission of celebrating materials and process, Second Lives explores the creative approaches of contemporary artists who give existing objects new life and meaning by transforming them into compelling works of art,” said Holly Hotchner, the Nanette L. Laitman Director of the Museum of Arts and Design. “We live in a world populated—and sometimes overpopulated —with consumer products. These artists make magic using society’s castoffs and overlooked items. While the focus of the exhibition is neither on sustainability nor recycling, the works in the exhibition are catalysts for thought and discussion about these issues. Second Lives is especially timely as MAD marks its own second life as a renewed institution and as Columbus Circle enjoys its own renaissance.”

Organized by Chief Curator David Revere McFadden, Curator Lowery Stokes Sims, and Adjunct Curator Brian Parkes, Second Lives reflects a current interest among international artists in using ordinary objects as raw materials. The works on view bear implicit social commentaries and explore themes of power, politics, identity, and value. Moreover, each work remains faithful to the highest standards of craftsmanship. These artists underscore the meaning of making and the transformative nature of creativity.

“Our perceptions of objects as functional or aesthetic, cheap or invaluable are directly challenged by the works on view in Second Lives,” said McFadden. “The 54 artists featured are working in ways that resist categorization and that underscore a breakdown in the hierarchy that has traditionally separated art, craft, and design. Instead, these intricately crafted works reveal an intense engagement with ideas, meaning, materiality and process.”

The exhibition includes selected works from the 1990s by such designers as Tejo Remy, Ingo Maurer, and the Campana brothers, among others, that provide an introduction to the repurposing of objects in design. The exhibition traces the development of this concept through a group of works created within the past eight years by both established and emerging artists, including, Ai Waiwai, Therese Agnew, El Anatsui, Hew Locke, Devorah Sperber, Cornelia Parker, Xu Bing, Do Ho Suh, Susie MacMurray and Fred Wilson, among others.

Jill Townsley exhibited: Spoons
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2008
EventSecond Lives: Remixing the Ordinary - Museum of Arts and Design, New York, United States
Duration: 1 Sep 20081 Mar 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Plastic Spoons Rubber Bands

    Townsley, J., 1 Jan 2008, Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary. McFadden, D. R. (ed.). Museum of Arts and Design, p. 220-223 4 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

  • Spoons

    Townsley, J., 2008

    Research output: Non-textual formArtefact

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