A quarter-inch-thick smartphone can be used as a watch, a camera, a theater, a map and even a mobile bank. Things Come Apart, a traveling exhibition circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and featuring the works of creative photographer and tinkerer Todd McLellan, looks inside the smartphone and dozens of other everyday technologies. The traveling exhibition will open September 8, 2018 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ, and remain on view through December 2, 2018 before continuing on a 12-city national tour.
McLellan spent countless hours disassembling objects of all sizes and functions—from a watch to a laptop and a Walkman to an upright piano—with painstaking precision into hundreds or even thousands of pieces. With each object fully stripped to its bare parts, he laid out each item in reverse order from the protective case to the smallest circuits until the true scope of each design was captured. The resulting images, grouped alongside other items built for similar purposes, provide a visual history lesson of mechanical innovation and highlight the contrast between old-world craftsmanship and sleek modern engineering. Through more than 40 captivating photographs, videos, and objects encased in acrylic, Things Come Apart documents the design and function, both low-tech and high-tech, of the utilitarian objects we take for granted in life today.
“We don’t always think about the tools we use, but working on this project has given me a greater respect for engineering of newer technology,” said McLellan, who also disassembled bicycles, compasses and power drills, among other things. “It’s remarkable how much modern design packs into so little.”
Younger visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to become part of the experience through the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center’s Spark! Lab activities.
Invent-A-Vehicle (Saturday, September 15, 11:00AM and 1:00PM):Visitors sketch and then build a vehicle to solve specific transportation challenges. Vehicles are made from reusable material and components are scaled to encourage collaboration, imaginative play, and real functional testing.
Shaping Space (Saturday, October 13, 11:00AM and 1:00PM):Visitors use their imagination and the provided construction materials to find inventive ways to shape spaces that meet varying engineering and architectural challenges.
Soundscapes (Saturday, November 10, 11:00AM and 1:00PM):Visitors design and assemble wooden blocks, noise-making elements, and marbles to create sound pathways and music. They explore different configurations and try marbles of different sizes and materials to produce the sounds they’re looking for.
About Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES)
SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu.
About Todd McLellan
McLellan is a photographer who specializes in conceptual work. He nurtured his love for conceptual photography at the Alberta College of Art and Design, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2002. He released the book Things Come Apart in 2013 and continues to make inspired visuals in his Toronto studio and on location which can be seen at http://www.toddmclellan.com/.