by Dani Ploeger with Atef 'Abdel 'Aal, blacksmith
Metal, Tablet computers, 2014
An Apple iPad mini and a Samsung Tab3 have been encased in sheet metal. Only the charging connectors remain accessible. The devices are charging endlessly. Visitors may handle the devices.
Since the 1930s, goods from cars to light bulbs have been produced following the logic of planned obsolescence, designed to break after a certain time, and thus forcing consumers to buy replacements. For tablet computers and similar contemporary devices the replacement rate is even faster, and with the difference that we usually get rid of them before they show signs of material decay, only because we can't update the software, or because a new model is available. We no longer perceive these devices as material objects, rather just as a gateway to information.
The project plays with this phenomenon. Two things happen when such objects are wrapped in metal: first, the tablets, while still recognisable as such and functioning - as they keep charging, become useless. This way, they revert to the status of material objects from that of merely channels for information. Secondly, the slick design of the mass-produced tablets makes them virtually all identical in their streamlined manufacture. The hand-made metal casing reveals imperfections and irregularities, therefore, paradoxically, it instils the object with individuality even as it takes away its functionality.
The process of producing the metal casings in ’Atef ‘Adbel ‘Ali’s workshop mirrored the transformation that the two mass-produced pieces of technology were undergoing, which gave them an additional meaning. Although the workshop is a busy place employing a number of people and using quite complex machinery, it was clear that optimising the use of time in the sense that drives industrial workplaces was not the overriding priority. It demonstrated that it is not the degree of mechanisation that distinguishes craft from industrial manufacturing.
Klio Krajewska, curator
In ‘Atef’s opinion, the objects themselves were not difficult to make, but the difficulty was in dealing with a completely novel idea. Dani insisted on making the metal casings by hand instead of using a machine which would finish the work in a matter of minutes. In the end, ‘Atef saw a benefit in a hand-working process: “Manual work lets you explore the core of the process. Using a machine operated by simply pushing a button is the easy-way-out that requires no focusing or effort.” Dani worked closely with him, observing every single step in the process, and was very keen on closing the distance between them in order to reach the best results. ‘Atef thinks that the project required a true professional, and he seems to be quite proud of the result.
based on the interview with Taher ‘Abd al-Ghani of ARCHiNOS Architecture