People - Garnet Hertz (2016)

Format: Sculpture with custom electronics

People (gallery view) - XXI Triennale di Milano

Description: This project, "People", examines the contemporary connection between individuals and their mobile phones. The project focuses on individuals standing motionless in public space staring at their smartphones, slowly caressing their screens, and proposes that these individuals are almost a new type of hybrid life form. Our relationship with handheld technologies have created a ubiquitous neo-cybernetic coupling between humans, technologies, and information systems that shifts our status into something slightly alien.

From a practical standpoint, the project consists of three (3) to five (5) large low polygon human figures, approximately 2 meters in height, that stand or sit motionless, staring at their hands as if they were browsing a smartphone. Each figure resembles a life-sized white origami human, like an angular George Segal plaster figure, with a hand that softly glows red like a slowly scrolling screen or Tatsuo Miyajima LED piece. Most individuals looking at the figures assume they are built out of sheet metal painted white.

This project was installed as a part of the XXI Triennale di Milano in Summer 2016. During this installation, the piece was built in an open public studio, with festival goers able to watch the piece be constructed. The finished pieces were installed as short-term interventions throughout the city of Milan.

People (sidewalk view) - XXI Triennale di Milano

People (street view) - XXI Triennale di Milano

People (portrait gallery view) - XXI Triennale di Milano

People (night detail) - XXI Triennale di Milano

People (night window) - XXI Triennale di Milano

Project Development Process: The figures are based off of 3D laser scans of individuals holding cell phones, which are then post-processed in 3D modelling software, unwrapped with specialized origami software, cut in white foamcore or cardboard with a CNC drag knife, with the fragments carefully reassembled on site with white tape. Each figure has a hand with a small Arduino and red LED matrices inside, which sits behind a white plexiglass cover. Each figure has a USB port in one foot, and is typically powered by a mobile phone charger - although for short term public interventions in places like public parks, the sculptures can be illuminated with Lithium Polymer batteries.

People (1:1 Foamcore Test 1 - Max) from Garnet Hertz on Vimeo.

Exhibition Logistics: Because of their light weight (7kg each), transportability, and ability to be powered by inexpensive LiPoly battery packs, the pieces can be installed in many different locations as a public intervention. The project is also built out of low cost materials, which enables intervention opportunities without needing to worry about damage to the pieces or retrieving them.

Logistically, the project ships as pre-cut flat sheets of foamcore or cardboard, and is assembled on site. For pre-production on site, three large tables (approximately 1.0m x 2.4m) are required for assembly. The duration of assembly and installation is approximately one day per figure, or 3 to 5 days, depending on the amount of figures desired. Each figure has a shipping volume of approximately 1/2 a cubic meter with a weight of approximately 7kg. In other words, shipping and installation options are as follows: The piece requires one standard electrical outlet (either 220-240 or 110-120 volts AC) and does not require any system maintenance, like turning on or off. The project is powered by USB hubs with 10m USB cables that go to USB ports in the foot of each figure. The entire installation consumes less than 100 watts of energy, approximately the same as one light bulb. The installation is self-supporting on the floor, and does not require any wall mounting. The piece is self-lit, and does not require gallery lighting.


Garnet Hertz (2016) -