Abstract Thinking

Netflix's Abstract season two premieres as Neri Oxman weathers Epstein scandal

The new season of the acclaimed Abstract series comes at a time when Oxman is at the center of a funding scandal. (Courtesy The Mediated Matter Group)

Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design invites audiences to step into the world of design in the broadest sense. The first season of the original docu-series launched in 2017 and explored design as a truly universal concept, delving into the architectural works of Bjarke Ingels, graphic design by Paula Scher, and other profiles covering automotive design, illustration, and photography.

Design fanatics now have even more to discover since the release of the series’ second season on September 25. Subjects of the new season include Academy Award-nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter, artist-architect and climate ambassador Olafur Eliasson, and designer-professor Neri Oxman. The release of Abstract’s new season comes at a time when Oxman, who works in the MIT Media Lab, was found to be involved in a scandal involving institutional funds from Jeffrey Epstein. Earlier this month, The Boston Globe reported that Oxman’s lab at MIT, the Mediated Matter Group, received $125,000 in funding from Epstein in 2015. Joi Ito, the former director of the Media Lab, recently resigned amidst allegations that he attempted to cover up the extent of Epstein’s relationship with the institution.

Oxman, who is currently on maternity leave from MIT, has released a statement expressing regret for accepting the funds, acknowledging the fact that MIT required the donation to be kept under wraps “so as to not enhance [Epstein’s] reputation by association with MIT.” In addition, Oxman was also directed to provide Epstein with a 3D-printed marble sculpture in recognition of his contributions to the lab.

Known for coining the term “material ecology,” Oxman uses a cross-disciplinary focus in her design work, blending elements of computer science, biology, and material arts. A major exhibition of Oxman’s work will open in February at the revamped Museum of Modern Art in New York.

All six episodes of Abstract: The Art of Design’s second season are now streaming on Netflix.

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