Three figures sit next to each other on a bench, displaying the typical characteristics of smartphone users: their heads are bent, fingers typing and swiping, and their faces lit up by their phone screens. While their bodies are physically present, their minds are elsewhere.
You can experience the way this affects others by taking a seat in between the figures of 'Absorbed by Light', designed by the British Gali May Lucas and executed by Berlin-based sculptor Karoline Hinz.
The phone and computer screens that, literally and figuratively, light up our lives are irresistible. We read new messages immediately and want easy access to our social media, useful apps, and browser. Our smartphones are with us all the time – in bed, on the toilet, in the train, at our desk. They are an extension of our contact with our families, friends, and even people on the other side of the world. And as a result, we engage ourselves more with the virtual and superficial reality than with each other and the real world around us, something Lucas makes painfully clear. Actively involving the audience in the ‘story’ is a recurring feature in the work of the British artist, who has been working as a graphic designer at different international agencies.
Yet a counter movement is on its way. Several tech companies are creating ways for you to look at your phone less. You can set a timer (for your children too), be confronted with statistics about your use, and enable a do-not-disturb function. It’s still the question whether these types of interventions will really change. For the time being it looks like we prefer to delve into our digital realities versus our direct surroundings.