While the rest of the world anticipates next week’s unveiling of the iPhone 7 or iPhone 6s or whatever and prepares to line up all over again, we made a run to an altogether sadder, creepier Apple Store — one that is to the real thing what Banksy’s Dismaland is to Disneyland.
You can find artist Evan Desmond Yee’s bizarre “App Store” in the posh Soho offices of Fueled Collective, a tech company that creates apps for some of the most luxurious brands in the world. The bulk of Fueled’s office space is decorated like an English den, all dark wood and leather furniture. But step into a minimalist back office and you’ll find interactive displays showcasing warped, retro-futuristic versions of Apple products and apps-come-to-life.
For starters, there’s the shell of an iPhone with its insides hollowed out and replaced with an hourglass filled with metallic sand made of ground up iPhones. It’s presumably a comment on what a time-suck staring at our screens has become, and it’s impossible not to pick it up and turn it over.
Elsewhere in the faux Apple Store, there’s a metal contraption that can be attached to the top of an iPhone, covering the camera lens to give photos a kaleidoscope effect. Adding to the absurdity, the product’s placard points out that the clunky hunk of metal can also be worn as a necklace, as demonstrated by a glamorous model.
Possibly the most visually arresting piece is “Nocuous Rift,” a spoof on the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that’s slated to hit the shelves next year. While the Oculus Rift appears sleek and comfy with its lightweight goggles and padded straps, the “Nocuous Rift” is a solid metal mask with leather straps that weighs way more than anything you’d ever want to put on your face (five pounds, to be exact). The video “review” below explains the concept in pretty great detail; basically, you put two iPhone 5s (both set to camera mode) into the mask, and the mask creates a 3-D image of the real world you’re already in. Seems like a steal at just $4,799.99 (yes, all of the times are purportedly for sale). After all, as the wise reviewer says, the build quality is probably its strongest suit. “It’s that heavy duty aluminum and leather that just feels like something that’s going to last a long time.”
Also on display: filter and no-filter glasses inspired by Instagram and an “app” that’s actually a 3-D sculpture — an app brought to life and stripped of its usefulness until it’s all beautifully rounded corners, shimmering red paint, and no function.
One of the more understated yet most engrossing products is a book titled “Timeline.” It’s a glossy booklet based on everyone’s favorite over-sharing platform, Facebook. Devoting one page per year from birth to death, it gives out unwanted information like “lbs fecal waste” and embarrassing facts like number of minutes spent having an orgasm (complete with depressing disparity between male and female partners).
It’s an amusing look at the course of one human’s life until you get to adulthood, when insomnia and depression start showing up on the list of illnesses. By the time middle age hits, the banner photo is a snapshot of a couple arguing — but they seem to have worked it out by their late fifties, when turmoil gives way to placid images of walks on the beach and a lady’s hand holding a nice glass of red wine.
Yee also left traces of the exhibit throughout the rest of the Fueled offices. In one corner a framed painting of a QR Code is ready for scanning (it calls up an image of the Mona Lisa). One seating area is awkwardly usurped by Yee’s giant, glowing “wheel of death” sculpture. And standing next to a desk cluster is “iPhossil,” a pillar of plexiglass encapsulating layers of dirt, sand and grass. In the center is a suspended iPhone, insignificant as time marches on, its ringtone never to interrupt another symphony again.
The idea to bring the installation to Fueled’s offices came after marketing strategist Ilan Nass saw the exhibit at a New York City gallery. The company’s founder, Rameet Chawla, agreed to host the artwork and was shocked to see how thoroughly Yee transformed the conference room while he was away on a trip to Greece.
“[Yee] came in and literally changed the light fixture, the wooden table, took out all these old armoire chairs I had in there, painted all the walls, put these tables in with lights in them, and literally transformed my room. I got back from Greece and I was just like, ‘Whoa.’ I had a meeting scheduled in there, and I just didn’t understand. And they said, ‘You said we could have the room,’ and I was like, ‘Yup, I did. I did say that. You’re absolutely right.”
Chawla was taken aback but says he now appreciates the artist’s ambition: “If it doesn’t make you have a reaction then I don’t think it’s a very good piece to begin with.”