Milan 2021 – Have you ever got trapped in constant scrolling routines, told off by health-measuring apps, alienated by pointless chats and bothered by pushy notifications? At the Fantastic Smartphones exhibition, ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne presents a series of projects and installations developed by Bachelor Media & Interaction Design students that address our relationship with smartphones and the way they influence our daily behaviour. [At Spazio Orso, via dell’Orso 16, map, until September 10.]
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Does the ‘glowing rectangle’ really enhance humanity, or does it simply make us dependent? The question is very contemporary, and the answer not so simple. The Fantastic Smartphones exhibition takes a critical look at a society that has become addicted to an object that seems to have become indispensable.
What if God, Eve and the Serpent used WhatsApp?
Adam & Eve is a recorded performance by Nora Fatehi, Michael Pica and Jorge Reis that reimagines the conversations they might have had. Their smartphones screens are displayed on a triptych of vertical screens. “This tableau drives us to reflect on the ways current communication systems are used and the drifts that may result from them.”
The Never-ending (Instagram) Story
The Kinetic Scroll installation by Pablo Bellon, Kylan Luginbühl and Yaël Sidler consists of a matrix of smartphones equipped with mechanisms that enable them to scroll endlessly. This wall echoes the social networks pages through which we sometimes scroll for hours in fear of missing an image that must be seen but which we won’t remember ten images later.
Tinder has reduced the act of dating to a single swipe. Automač by Antoine Barras and Guillaume Giraud enables us to match with a maximum number of potential partners automatically. It consists of a smartphone holder, a camera that observes the screen and a rotating mechanism to swipe on the smartphone screen. Via a screen interface, the user has the possibility to choose selection criteria by automating this process and delegating it to a machine.
Spending too much time on TicToc? The TicTocLock device by Paul Lëon and Diane Thouvenin uses the pull string mechanism of toys. When the time is out, it switches the smartphone off. TicTocLock aims to reinstate a gesture for the unlocking that helps the users take back control over their smartphone activity by physically visualising their usage time.
Tired of pointless chats? Taptaptap by Lisa Kishtoo, Bastien Mouthon and Diane Thouvenin can do it for you. Based on an analysis of our writing habits, the device suggest a sequence of words that are supposed to match your writing style. Two smartphones can even chat to each other thanks to mechanical fingers that select suggested words to form sentences.
Hacking Health apps
Biobots is a family of devices criticising the policy of large multinationals that collect and trade personal health data through smartphones. “By simulating the activity of a perfectly healthy individual, Biobots presents itself as a collection of objects of resistance,” say Aurélien Pellegrini and Bastien Claessens.
Podobot is a motorised swing for smartphones mimics the movement of a device in a person’s pocket while walking. The phone will register long walks you have never done. Cardiobot is a device designed to fool a mobile application into studying your heart rate. Sleepbot is designed to house a smartphone under its glass cover to isolate it from ambient noise so that it will think you have enough sleep.
What if a narcissistic robot grabbed hold of a selfie stick? The Selfie Robot by Basil Dénéréaz and Sébastien Galera Larios is a machine performance featuring a robotic arm equipped with a smartphone and a selfie stick taking pictures of itself with different face filters. Amusing or disturbing?
All photos: courtesy of ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne.