If muralist Rudolph Zallinger’s “The March of Progress,” the famous drawing of a series of figures to depict human evolution, were to be reconceived in 2016, the final figure might be slumped over a cell phone, its head held at an uncomfortable angle that strains the neck.
“For years, I would constantly make promises to myself to correct my posture, and it’s perhaps been getting worse and worse,” multidisciplinary artist Jillian Mayer says. “And you see now information about ‘text neck,’ and more young people having carpal tunnel syndrome—the effects of being engaged with devices for large quantities of time. It’s been a building curiosity for me.”
It’s this collision of the physical world and the digital one that inspires “Slumpies,” Jillian’s latest collection of sculptures, meant to support the human form as users interact with their handheld devices. Designed to be practical, they feature power plugs and Wi-Fi, and also can be lied upon or sat on while being shown (as seen in a recent exhibition in Los Angeles at LAXART).
That Venn-diagram-like overlap between the digital and physical worlds has long been a playground for Jillian. Her short film, “#PostModem,” which screened at Sundance in 2013, explores everything from data cloud backups as a key to immortality to the Singularity (while also featuring an excellent hand dance), while “Day Off” follows a virtual reality gamer from the outside of his invented world, as he knife fights against no one on a snowy street.
“The reflexive nature and desire for social connection that keeps going from physical to digital to physical to digital—the vortex—I find it very compelling and curious, and also quite tender,” she says. “I pitch a lot of theoretical combinations of physical and digital together or apart, but I think I still represent a very emotional side of tech.”