[ISEA2015] Artist Statement: Garnet Hertz – PHONE SAFE 2

Artist Statement

Steel and custom electronics, 70 x 40 x 50 cm. (2015)

In 1996, when former South African President Thabo Mbeki stated “Half of humanity has not yet made a phone call,” mobile technologies were not the ubiquitous devices they are today. In his investigation of the origin of this often-stated truism, media writer Clay Shirky found the penetration of wireless technologies into the locations Mbeki was likely referring to had increased exponentially over the last two decades. “Between 1995 and 2000, the world’s population rose by about 8%. Meanwhile, the number of land lines rose by 50%, and the number of cellular subscribers by over 1000%.” Shirky’s argument was a means to argue for the erosion of the digital divide. Paradoxically, a fresh divide has evolved, one where humans are increasingly separated from each other’s real selves. Phone Safe 2 is a project by Garnet Hertz that is a custom-built safety deposit box for individuals to voluntarily deposit mobile phones for a short period of time in public space. Once deposited, phones cannot be retrieved until the predetermined time. This project opposes the concept that pervasive computing and mobile communication is good in all circumstances, disrupts the standard flow and use of communication technologies, and strives to help people create an environment for face-to-face interaction.

  • Garnet Hertz’s multidisciplinary work includes art objects, experimental product designs and academic research, and argues that the speculative and critically oriented methods of the arts and humanities can be used to design more evocative, thought-provoking and human oriented technologies. This work is informed by his extensive experience in multiple disciplines. His advanced training includes a BFA (1997), an interdisciplinary MFA in Art, Computer Science and Engineering (2005), a PhD in Humanities (2009), and postdoctoral appointments in Computer Science and Informatics (2010). Garnet Hertz holds a Canada Research Chair in Design and Media Arts at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

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