Jillian Mayer, Slumpie 4 - Lounger
Ever notice the shape your body takes on while staring at your smartphone? Whether you’re standing or prone, your shoulders hunch, your neck bends at a deep and awkward angle, and your face hovers dangerously close to a light source that could be making you temporarily blind. If you were to momentarily check yourself, you’d probably realise it’s terrible for the posture, straining on the eyes, and objectively uncomfortable. Artist Jillian Mayer, whose playful work examines humanity’s complicated and mercurial relationship with technology, has created Slumpies, a series of sculptures designed to support the texting body. Each is shaped differently, allowing users to find one that best accommodates their smartphone-fiddling postures—but the body is always somehow cradled, the neck snugly at rest. You’ll be able to try them for yourself at the upcoming 2016 Atlanta Biennial (which is returning after a nine-year hiatus).
The glittery, enamel-painted Slumpies are reminiscent of catalog objects with questionable utility—grown-up “toys,” designed for the sake of streamlining or fun, disguised as necessities. But the sculptures, which have so far appeared at David Castillo Gallery in Miami and LAXART in Los Angeles, are useful and comfortable, even emitting Wi-Fi in gallery settings. Given their purpose, they enable us to fully occupy that space of present-but-not-quite, physically standing in a social setting but mentally exploring cyberspace.
Explains Mayer, “When I was in public, I noticed people with their chins resting against their necks and their eye gaze low, towards their phone screens, which was positioned around their sternum level. These people were all in public doing very social things, yet they needed or prefered to tend to their digital worlds. I wondered if there was a way to create an object allowing participants to do what they wanted--use their phone--while simultaneously engaging and disengaging from the environment they were physically present in.”
As art pieces, Slumpies promote passive performance, too, effectively rendering anyone who sits on one part of an experimental installation. “I wondered if I could make a sculpture which asked for engagement and if people would help fulfill the sculpture’s agency,” Mayer says. “The sculpture would also serve as a stage for the person, who then would become a performer.”
Mayer thinks a lot about the placement and purpose of the body, both performatively and biologically, particularly as it begins to accommodate new technologies. “I have recently become more aware of people’s body language and positions,” she says. “I wondered how the body, like everything else, has transformed in the last view decades alongside the innovations and devices we create in order to make our lives more comfortable and our desires more accessible. Naturally, these inventions call for our body to shift towards them in order to engage more. I constantly think about what we forfeit in order for more, what we release or submit from the past in order to access the future.”
Slumpies address those unusual, sometimes awkward bodily transformations in a way that’s fully utilitarian. The best part: they’re customizable—you can order a custom-fit Slumpie sculpture or select a preferred position. Pay close attention to the way your neck hangs and how you change your posture next time you’re forced to look at your phone, and plan accordingly.
Jillian Mayer’s Slumpies are on view at the 2016 Atlanta Biennial at Atlanta Contemporary August 27, 2016 - December 18, 2016, and at EXPO Chicago September 25, 2016 - September 28, 2016. Order a Slumpie of your own at Slumpi.es. Follow Jillian @JillianMayer.