Artist Spotlight: Alice Wang
What Isaac Asimov has to do with your body image and why your friends would rather you got 8 hours of sleep.
By Maria Popova
Every once in a while, we come across an artist so innovative and conceptually brilliant that we have the compulsion to stalk them. This, however, gets kinda hard if they’re halfway across the world, which in most cases they are. So we just spotlight them instead.
Today, we take a stalker’s stare at Alice Wang, a Taipei-born, London-educated, is-gonna-be-big-take-our-word-for-it product designer. We’re obsessed with Alice because her work isn’t just an aesthetic: it’s informed and inspired by genuine insight into human behavior, cultural taboos and sociological patterns. In other words, the Brain Pickings mission materialized.
Her Audio Sticks project explores how digitization will change our complex relationship with music. In Pet Plus, Alice projects the way we treat our pets as human surrogates onto products like the pet wineglass set that live in the extremities of the human-pet relationship.
She looks at the complex issue of body image through the prism of Asimov’s First Law — the idea that artificial intelligence can never harm a human — and the weight we place on that number on the bathroom scale.
Three different scales challenge the absolutism with which we think about body image.
White lies allows you to manipulate the weight reading depending on where you stand on the scale’s surface. Half-truth shows the weight reading to your friend or partner, who can choose the level of truthiness in relaying the number to you. Open secrets texts your weight reading to a friend’s mobile phone, binding said friend to share the results next time the two of you hang out. (“Hey, Anna, you brought suntan lotion, right? Oh and by the way, you’ve gained 5 pounds.”)
And then there’s the tyrant alarm clock. It hijacks your phone and starts randomly dialing one of your contacts every three minutes until you get out of bed and make it stop before your social circle has shrunk to the size of a sleeping pill.
Wang’s work is sometimes serious, sometimes tongue-in-cheeck, and always thoughtful. Just the way we like it.
Published July 10, 2008