This is a series of 1:1 CNC replicas of the iPhone 4S, cut from Noir Belge.
The sculptures are machined to match the exact dimensions of an iPhone 4S. Each piece has a different swipe pattern gilded onto it, using UV-catalyzed human nose grease as the gilding size. The pattern of gold on each device in the series corresponds to the accumulated smudges after that kind of mobile interaction. For example, “Witness” features a strong diagonal smudges corresponding to the frequent zoom-and-pan involved in that activity.
Midas / Residue
Each sculpture’s face has embellishments in 24 karat gold leaf whose shape corresponds to the finger-smudges accumulated on the surface of a phone while engaged in a specific mode of use. The modes, and subsequent version titles, are:
- Like and Subscribe (YouTube, Twitter)
- Doomscroll (Twitter and news apps)
- Witness (camera and photo reel)
In the Midas legend, the king wishes that all he touches might turn to gold; in practice, with this gift comes the inability to nourish himself.
Touchstone / Attention
The material in this sculpture has most commonly been used throughout history as a touchstone, the surface against which a merchant would scratch a piece of gold in order to determine the gold’s purity. The word paragon owes its etymological roots to this practice.
Here, the gilding highlights the commodification of attention ingorming the design of almost every interaction hosted on the deivce. The accumulated smudges on a phone screen, ephemeral desire-paths of hand and eye, here precipitate into actual gold, deposited on the surface of a contemporary touchstone.
The sculptures were CNC machined from a chunk of Noir Belge over the course of six months in 2022; polishing took another two months, as working with stone in these proportions is extremely delicate and tenuous work. The stone-milling facility uses large 6-axis robot arms to hold the tooling, similar to the robots used in automated car production facilities.
I chose the iPhone 4S because it is the phone that feels best in my hand.