Destroyed Apple products become photographic works of art

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When does an iPhone or an iPad cease to be a mere consumer gadget and enter the rarefied world of visual art? How about when someone willfully destroys it, turning it into an abstract, brutalized husk of its former self?

A series of smashed, mangled, shot up and melted Apple products are the subject of a recent photography project by a San Francisco-area graphic designer who said he’s trying to make people think about their relationship with these universally beloved gadgets.


Michael Tompert said he had spent the last several months purchasing the newest in Apple consumer technology and then creatively destroying the pricey toys. The results, which he photographed, briefly went on display at a gallery exhibition that ran over the weekend at the small Live Worms Gallery in San Francisco. (The art show was first reported on the site Cult of Mac.)

Speaking on the phone, Tompert said the idea for the project came to him after he gave each of his two sons an iPod touch for Christmas. He said the two boys fought over one of the devices, which had a certain game on it. Fed up with the quarrel, Tompert said he grabbed one of the iPods and smashed it on the ground.

‘They were kind of stunned -- the screen was broken and this liquid poured out of it. I got my camera to shoot it,’ Tompert said. ‘My wife told me that I should do something with it.’

In all, Tompert created 12 images of destroyed Apple products, working with his friend Paul Fairchild, a photographer. ‘They had to be a brand-new product,’ Tompert said. ‘It’s not about destroying old products. It’s about our relationship with the new.’

His methods of destruction varied by gadget. To destroy an iPhone 3G device (seen above), he used a Heckler & Koch handgun to blow a hole through it. To obliterate a set of iPod Nanos, he placed the devices on a train track so that a locomotive would run over them. (See an image of them after the jump.)

The most difficult product to obliterate was the iPad -- ‘it’s practically indestructible,’ Tompert said.


He said the iPad (seen right) withstood blows from a sledgehammer and other blunt tools. In the end, he used a soldering torch to heat the insides of the iPad until they started to boil and the device exploded.

Perhaps ironically, Tompert is a former Apple employee. He said he had nothing but admiration for the company’s products. ‘I’ve been an Apple fan from Day 1,’ he said. (Tompert, who hails from Germany, currently works as a graphic designer and specializes in CGI technology.)

Some people may think it crazy to purchase new, expensive technology products only to destroy them. Tompert said the photography project was intended to be humorous and tongue in cheek. At the same time, he wanted people to think more deeply about their relationship to these ubiquitous devices.

‘They’re designed to be so bare-boned and simple -- like the monolith in ‘2001’ -- and everyone
is going crazy around it,’ he said. ‘I wanted to say relax, let’s see what’s in it.’

From an art critic’s point of view, the destroyed gadgets contain strains of Dadaism and Surrealism. Everyday products are turned on themselves and made to seem unfamiliar again. Or as René Magritte might have said, ‘Ceci n’est pas un iPhone.’

-- David Ng


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