An ephemeral sculpture composed of technological object forms spanning pre-historic to the contemporary era, that we chemically destroyed to reflect both the natural processes of erosion and destruction, and the march of obsolescence in technological progress.

Feature: Athanor Magazine № 5

The object models were sourced from the internet and CNC routed (Rhino, MeshMixer and Aspire) in halves out of expanded polystyrene (blue foam). The halves were then glued together with superglue to form full 3D object forms and painted white.

The objects were planned and arranged in three layers:

Pre-historic technology

  • hand axe
  • cutting tool
  • flint stone
  • spear head

Historic technology

  • abacus
  • quill pen
  • battle axe
  • flute
  • padlock
  • compass

Modern technology

  • audio cassette
  • Nintendo controller
  • digital camera
  • iphone 5
  • bionic hand

The three layers were arranged vertically from oldest to newest inside of a clear acrylic box (which was lasercut and glued with Gorilla Glue, which is resistant to solvents).

The vertical arrangement of the objects references the archaeological layering of history as objects and tools are placed or lost in the earth over generations. The clear acrylic box also references a vitrine like those found for display in history and art museums. The objects were attached to the sides of the box using screws.

Once the sculpture was fully constructed, we brought it to a new part of Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo, a specific area that has recently undergone massive gentrification as tech companies have moved into the “Brooklyn Tech Triangle” and displaced older residents and artists who have lived and worked in the area for many years.

The specific part of the park we chose to install in has recently undergone a big renovation that expanded the shoreline into the East River where a walkway was built around a man-made tidal inlet. Before the wave of construction, this area had also been heavily flooded and destroyed during Hurricane Sandy.

We placed the box on an old iron plinth that rises from the inlet, a marker of Dumbo’s industrial past. We then poured acetone on the top of the box, which leaked through, raining onto the objects through holes we drilled. As the acetone soaked the objects, it ate away at the structure of the polystyrene, melting and decomposing the objects over time. At the end of this process, all that was left of the tools were dissolved, unrecognizable, almost organic masses.

The chemical destruction of these technological forms reflects both the natural processes of erosion and destruction, and also the march of obsolescence in technological progress. We wonder if these patterns might be more related than it appears. Technology itself changes more and more quickly, and recently mundane objects soon become arcane, dissolving away with their purposes and their users. In the same vein, entire geographies and geologies become lost to new structures, and even nature itself becomes obsolete.

Collaboration with Tyler Henry.