Designer Mind Games

“The Statistical Clock”

Design/art collective Dunne & Raby don’t actually call themselves artists. Anthony Dunne is a design professor at the Royal College of Art in London and Fiona Raby has a background in architecture, but unlike design studios that specialize in creating fonts or objects or furniture, Dunne & Raby make projects that “use design as a medium to stimulate discussion and debate about the social, cultural and ethical implications of existing and emerging technologies.” Their work is in the permanent collections of the MoMA, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Frac Ile-de-France and FNAC.

To give you an idea of what those discussion-generating projects are like, let’s take a look at “Do You Want to Replace the Existing Normal?” (2007/08), a four-part installation that anticipates design in a “time when we will have more complex and subtle everyday needs” as opposed to our current “unimaginative and practical” desires.

The first component of the installation is “The Statistical Clock,” (above) a large microphone-shaped speaker that continually checks the BBC’s website and announces “technologically mediated fatalities,” via car, plane, train, subway, etc. Then there’s the “S.O.C.D (Sexual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder),” (below) a TV that plays porn specifically for those who feel guilty watching it. Attached to the DVD player is a long, soft dildo-like rubber tube. To activate the TV the viewer must grab hold of the tube, inside of which are metal bands that “sense your level of arousal and pixelate the image accordingly.” The higher your arousal, the more pixelated the image and more distorted the sound becomes. If you let go the TV shuts off, so to watch you have to hold on “but try to de-arrouse yourself.”

To learn more about this and other projects by Dunne & Raby, like their porn-free entry to the St. Etienne Design Biennale, check out their website.