With so much of our lives being played out online through emails, messaging services and social media channels, sometimes we need to be reminded to put down our smart phones and live in the moment. With this in mind, Los Angeles-based design consultancy The Culture Creative has paired with artist Sean Brian McDonald to create Devices – a series of handheld, pocket-sized sculptures that will serve as temporary replacements for smart phones, encouraging us to look with our eyes instead of our screens.
The idea for the project came to McDonald during his tenure as a gallery attendant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where he noticed how often the gallery's visitors checked their phones. 'Maybe they would take a picture, but never really look at and experience an artwork in the flesh,' remembers McDonald. The sculptures, he says, are 'kind of like a pacifier! A way of being in the moment and aware of your surroundings.'
Produced by AUX, The Culture Creative's new in-house production arm, as a limited edition of 39 iPhone-sized sculptures that can be thrown into a purse, the tactile Devices are made using fabrics and materials sourced from LA-based fashion designer Jasmin Shokrian's studio – cotton, silk, chiffon, paper, styrofoam – encased in dark blue enamel. 'Since tactility is a focus, the fabric is the most important of the materials,' says McDonald of the process. 'The high gloss enamel helps accentuate the various weaves in the fabric. The inner materials are simply there to hold the shape. When I'm applying the fabric and primer, I'm looking to make a structurally sound object by creating a solid outer shell. When the fabric and paint fuse, it takes on a different physical property, so I have to react and allow any kind of natural gesture to happen.'
Serving as hybrid, talisman-esque objects that sit somewhere between fine art and fashion accessories, the Devices are AUX's second project, following its launch earlier this year. 'AUX collaborations vary from project to project,' explains AUX director and The Culture Creative founder Sean Yashar, 'but the common thread is that I'm proposing questions to problems that don’t yet exist. Meaning, I present and conceptualise AUX projects directly to and with the artists I select to to collaborate with, based on a desire to push dialogue on a given subject in the cultural ether.'
The Devices will go on sale on AUX's dedicated ecommerce page in October and will also be on show by appointment only at AUX's space within The Culture Creative's mid-city office near LACMA. 'I call this space an "un-gallery", as it's an alternative to the classic gallery model. Its mission is that it's filling a whitespace between the artist and gallery,' says Yashar of the new space, which also showcases other projects and prototypes that the studio is working on. 'Unlike a gallery that shows finished work, AUX space confidently shows works in progress, successes and failures.'