Quarantine Culture: 5 Ways to Experience Design and Art Without Leaving Your Home

Knoll’s new insights on work culture, the Architecture & Design Film Festival’s latest edition, a long-lost SimCity ancestor, and more

Though the novel coronavirus has shown signs of slowing down, the cultural sector remains at a standstill: Museums and galleries remain shuttered in many countries, and fairs and festivals have been canceled. At the advice of experts, people continue to hunker down to self-quarantine and practice social distancing. The situation is evolving quickly, a new reality has been forced upon us, and fields like architecture and painting can seem trivial. And yet, at moments of such isolation and crisis, art, design, and performance can offer powerful means of connection—and a welcome escape from the disorienting present. With exhibitions and concerts called off, we survey five low-risk ways to experience culture—from the Criterion Collection’s paywall-free films about the Black experience to MoMA’s Cooking With Artists, and more.

Knoll Design Days 2020

“Simply put, the very nature of how we work and live is always changing, whether it’s in response to new technologies, evolving work culture, or the Covid-19 crisis,” says Benjamin Pardo, executive vice president of design at Knoll. This insight forms the cornerstone of Knoll Design Days 2020, a two-day series of virtual programming that took place on June 9 and 10 (free replays are available here). Building on the success of the company’s ongoing k.talks series and Women in Design Dialogues, the program explores Knoll’s research-driven perspective with today’s top thinkers in workplace strategy, product design, architecture, interior design, and textiles. Tune in for a studio visit with Copenhagen-based designer Thomas Bentzen, cocktail discussions with Barber & Osgerby, and insights on what makes a great workplace from Pardo, Antenna Design, and Rockwell Group founder David Rockwell


“Daughters of the Dust”

Criterion Collection

Leading voices across the creative industries have spoken out against police brutality and systemic racism as protests have swept the nation in response to the murder of George Floyd under police custody in Minneapolis. The Criterion Collection has followed suit—its streaming platform, the Criterion Channel, will remove its paywall on select titles that highlight Black lives. “We’re committed to examining the role we play in the idea of canon formation, whose voices get elevated, and who gets to decide what stories get told,” the company said in a statement.

Highlights include works by early pioneers of African American cinema such as Oscar Micheaux; classics by Maya Angelou, Julie Dash, William Greaves, Kathleen Collins, Cheryl Dunye, and Charles Burnett; contemporary work by Khalik Allah and Leilah Weinraub; and documentary portraits of Black experience by white filmmakers Les Blank and Shirley Clarke. Additionally, the company announced a $25,000 contribution (followed by an ongoing $5,000 monthly commitment) to support organizations that fight racism in America, such as bail funds, legal defense funds, and advocacy groups that address police reform. 


“Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island”

ADFF @ NeoConnect

Under normal circumstances, the contract design industry would be descending on The Mart in Chicago for NeoCon, the world’s preeminent trade fair for the latest innovations in commercial furniture. Covid-19 had other plans, however, and this year’s edition was canceled entirely. To help designers stay engaged during this socially distanced time, NeoCon teamed up with the Architecture & Design Film Festival to launch ADFF@NeoConnect, a four-night virtual series that live-streams standout films about architecture and design. The series kicks off on Sunday, June 14, with Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island, and continues with Mario Botta: The Space Beyond (6/15), SuperDesign: Italian Radical Design 1965–75 (6/16), and Charlotte Perriand, Pioneer in the Art of Living (6/17). Each film streams for $3 (purchase tickets here) and will be followed with a Q&A with the directors. 


Maxis: SimRefinery

Before Maxis captivated the hearts of budding urban planners around the world with SimCity, the software company was developing novel game-like programs that helped businesses run virtual simulations. One of these includes SimRefinery, an obscure oil refinery simulator that had been virtually forgotten until the librarian and archivist Phil Salvador published a lengthy, largely untold history of Maxis back in May. After reading an Ars Technica report of Salvador’s story, an anonymous internet user whose friend worked as a chemical engineer at Chevron in the early ‘90s uploaded the long-lost game from a 3.5-inch disk to the Internet Archive, where it’s now free for everyone to play. 

SimRefinery may feel technical, but don’t expect to learn the ins and outs of managing an oil refinery in one go—the prototype is unfinished and slightly difficult to navigate. But it served its purpose for the higher-ups at Chevron, which commissioned Maxis to develop a program that showed “how the dynamics of the refinery worked, how all the different pieces invisibly fit together, like SimCity did for cities,” writes Salvador. SimRefinery checks all those boxes.


MoMA: Cooking With Artists

“Like an artist, a cook holds the key to the transformation of material,” writes the chef Mina Stone, who hosts a new interview series, Cooking With Artists, for MoMA’s online magazine. As most of us have been forced to become more comfortable with home cooking during the quarantine, the series sees Stone dive into the culinary experiences that have shaped artists such as Dara Friedman, Anicka Yi, and Hugh Hayden. Each artist shares personal anecdotes, family food rituals, and a go-to recipe that “shines a light on the essence of who they are, their work, and hopefully who we are as a society,” writes Stone. “It’s a universal language that we can all relate to, a pause in the day that offers a release when so much is out of our control.”

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