The artistic team Hillerbrand+Magsamen is the collaboration of Stephan Hillerbrand and Mary Magsamen. Their interdisciplinary work centers on their physical home and daily lives in Houston, Texas, and often includes the participation of their children, Maddie and Emmett. The Devices Project explores how this family of four uses everyday objects to playfully survive and cope in a world filled with personal and political turmoil.
Despite phone apps that let us talk with millions of people and robots in our homes that respond to our every word, we don’t always feel connected or hopeful. Inspired by the concept of homo faber—that humans can control their fate and environment through tools—Hillerbrand+Magsamen decided to make their own devices to help fix the world. With insight and humor they transformed commonplace materials such as plastic bags, tape, yarn, aluminum foil, small appliances, and other household items, into devices that help us navigate our yearnings and fears. They have built devices for getting people to like you, negotiating with a teenager, being heard, saying goodbye, or looking younger, to name just a few.
This multi-media installation explores some of the nearly 250 devices the team has created since 2018. A series of photographs highlights twenty-eight of them and a video of the family making, manipulating, and interacting with various devices plays on a continuous loop across three monitors. The installation also includes photographic blanket assemblages and several 3-D printed sculptures. Some of these digitally-produced works incorporate drawing, sewing, and handwriting, perhaps underscoring the importance of the human touch in our age of technology.