Reading a love letter from a glass bottle that has travelled the seas by candle light; or receiving an instant message or phone call from a loved one in your fully lit apartment?
In the digital world I find myself wondering; what would it have been like to live without technology? As I write this and I’m sure as you read it your phone is on the desk next to you or maybe in your hand, you are reading off a laptop or tablet device and your room is illuminated by artificial light, with a flick of a switch a light bulb is on. I often find myself pondering how my life would be different if I could not send an instant message to my friends and receive a response almost immediately and how my life would be changed if whilst I was overseas I could not have instant contact back home through email, Facebook or Skype. Same goes for electricity, in what ways would my life be different if creating light wasn’t just a flick of a switch but rather lighting multiple candles to achieve a warm glow of light during the evening. I know what you are all thinking, we take this kind of technology for granted everyday and it is impossible not to engage with it on some level, as people develop new technologies we are powerless to stop it being implemented into our daily lives, even if we do not let it directly…
Two designers that are acknowledging this pondering of the past as we are surrounded by technology are, Japanese designer Saburo Sakata, and American conceptual artist and electrical engineer Scott Amron. Both approach this concept differently but I feel both capture the merging of past and present to create truly beautiful, new technological designs.
Sakata’s series of stationary that includes the USB drive titled ‘Blank’ is a digital reincarnation of the romantic message-in-a-bottle. The minimalist USB drive and case made from cork and glass captures the past through using the very thing that was used as a method of communication across the seas but with a modern twist. A sailor writes a heart-felt letter to his lover as his boat drifts in the ocean, no land in sight, he corks it and throws it into the water with hope that the currents will carry his words and love back to her. ‘Blank’ in essence is the same concept (but perhaps not as romantic), messages, words or images concealed within a bottle, Sakata has brought this into the modern, digital world through the USB. He is also reminding us of the possibilities that a blank USB holds, what we can create is a separate area for our thoughts and documents that can be moved around freely and travel with or without us or our laptop. Much like the message in a bottle, that travels with the currents.
This concept also got me thinking of the number of USB drives I have misplaced during my time at university. How many I have left in computers or that have fallen out of my bag. I wonder if someone found them, plugged them into their computer and saw my documents and looked at my assessments or watched the TV series I had saved on their or the music I had gotten off a friend. A USB, be it one that is blank or filled with files contains endless possibilities and can hold quite an amount of someone’s life, thus I think it is extremely fitting that Sakata merged the modern USB with the past’s message-in-a-bottle.
Amron has also achieved this merging of past and present with his take on the desk lamp or perhaps just lighting in general with his design entitled ‘Candull’. ‘Candull’ is essentially a desk lamp but Amron replaces the light bulb with a low-tech equally as functional candle. Amron has adapted the candle for the modern context with a screw in base enabling it to be screwed into a desk lamp just like the modern light bulb. This design is a fusion of past and present with the merging of a modern desk lamp and a somewhat stone age form of light, fire. ‘Candull’ also brings an approach to energy efficiency and the consumption of electricity within the home, removing the energy entirely from a lamp and replacing it with a dash of wit, a dash of fire. This play on past and present is extremely effective, although in my opinion not as effective as Sakata’s ‘Blank’ USB. Perhaps this is because of the story one is able to create with the message-in-the-bottle ties. Or perhaps it is because I can envision myself carrying my ‘Blank’ USB around university however cannot see myself sitting down to read with a single candle as my source of light.
Both these designs bring together elements of the past into the modern world, they are an amalgamation of past and present allowing us to reconnect with the past within this extremely digital and technological driven society. So as I finish writing this and you finish reading, I will most likely continue to ponder how my life would be different without technology and what it would have been like for those people hoping a message-in-a-bottle would reach a loved one, or using any number of candles to create light. But I guess one cannot miss what they’ve never had, right?