Form follows function follows form | Workshop by Thomas Thwaites

  • Object-in-Residence Workshop #1 

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    Create a strange new encasement for your mobile phone

    All encasement materials will be provided. Please bring a mobile phone to encase. Let us know if that’s a problem for you and we’ll find an alternative

    Join designer Thomas Thwaites in an experiment to radically alter the phone's form, and find a 'differently practical' physical and mental relationship with the ubiquitous communication device.

    You will use unlikely combinations of natural and raw materials to encase your phones in bold new forms, hoping that changing the physicality of the phone will change our relationship with it.
    For those who want to go further / who bring a semi-functioning phone, they don’t mind risking turning into a brick; we can delve deeper into the phone electronics and try to change the underlying arrangement of components.

    Thomas Thwaites is one of the three artists of the Object-in-Residence trajectory, part of the Materiality of Technology strand of our 2024 Technologies Otherwise program. Starting from a specific technological “object” (in the broader sense of the term), we invited artists/designers to take it apart, materialise/ visualise how it works, analyse how it is produced and assembled, what materials are chosen and where they come from. In this way, we can situate our approach and make it specific, and from that specificity, we can tackle the more general questions we address with the whole Technologies Otherwise program.

    Content of the workshop
    After a brief introduction to some useful material techniques (e.g. carving, laminating, willow basketry, crocheting, phone deconstruction/reconstruction), and the basics of how we’ll mate our technical phones with our encasement materials, we’ll generate some designs for new form factors for our phones. We’ll think about altering the weight, optics, dimensions, comfort, convenience and usability of our phones by creating new cases for them. Then we’ll work to make our designs a reality.
    At the end of the workshop participants will hopefully have made a strange case for their phone, that they can take away with them, to probe if the physical embodiment of our phones could change our mental relationship with them.
    NB. We’ll be careful not to accidentally damage these expensive pieces of technology, but accidents can happen: Participation in the workshop is on the understanding that it is experimental, and something could happen that could damage your phone. We’ll take steps to minimise this from happening, but participation is entirely at your own/your phone's risk.

    About the Artist

    Thomas Thwaites is design researcher, interested in the complex impacts technology has on us humans, particularly in terms of climate change, economics and environmental justice.
    He is the author of two popular books; The Toaster Project: Or a heroic attempt to build a simple electric appliance from scratch, and Goatman: How I took a holiday from being Human, which have been translated into Japanese, Korean, German, and Norwegian. 
    His work is exhibited at galleries and museums across six continents (including at MoMA, the National Museum of China, the Cooper Hewitt, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Seoul). The Toaster Project was purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum (UK national collection), and Goatman was recently acquired by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Netherlands). His work is also in the collections of the Design Museum London, the Banque De France, and the Asia Culture Centre (South Korea).
    His TED talk is available online, and he presented a four part TV series for the Discovery Channel (‘The Man Who Makes Things From Scratch’). He has an MA from the Royal College of Art, and a BSc. from University College London.

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