When broken phones inspire unique art:
Shattering one's touchscreen phone makes dialling a hassle and
texting a finger-shredding ordeal. But in certain circles the smashed
screen has become a means of self-expression. You can even purchase a
screensaver that mimics shattered glass.
While creating etchings inspired by broken windows near her home in
Hackney, east London, artist Sam Hodge found her eye drawn to her
friends' smashed phone screens. "It fascinated me that no two patterns
are ever alike," she says.
The first screen she reproduced belonged to her son's guitar teacher.
Next she tried asking strangers if she could borrow their phones but
they were, unsurprisingly, rather reluctant. Then, in 2013, she accepted
an invitation to participate in an event at the Barbican in which
artists were invited to host pop-up stalls in the gallery foyer. Hodge
put up a sign saying
"I want to draw your broken phone screens" - and things took off.
"People seem delighted when I ask how it happened," she says. "It's
almost like therapy for them." She has been consistently astonished by
the number of people who have no intention of getting the damage
repaired. "They'd say, 'It's a bit annoying when bits of glass fall into
my ear, but other than that, it's fine'."
This week, 39 of the 45 screen impressions she has made so far will
beprinted as a limited-edition book.
It has a glow-in-the-dark cover meant to mimic the constant glowing
presence of the smartphone screen in everyday life. Hodge also plans to
sell individual prints.
To make each impression, she places transparent drypoint plastic over
the broken screen and, looking through a magnifying glass, traces the
pattern with a needle-like tool. Depending on the complexity, a single
drawing can take anything up to a couple of hours.
When ink is rolled on to the plastic it sticks inside the lines,
which are then pressed against paper using a 19th century roller press.
Each screen is reproduced alongside its story, told in reported speech.
The owners often go into incredibly mundane detail and even try to
reason with fate. The resulting collection is a panorama of everyday
life - commuting, dates, Japanese philosophy, Sellotape, the perils of
Hodge, 52, studied natural sciences at Cambridge, and likens the
idiosyncrasies of the shatter lines to the infinitesimal patterns found
in nature - in snowflake forms, for example, or in the filaments of
butterfly wings. For many years she worked as a painting conservator for
museums and galleries such as the Tate, and even made a study of the
ways paint and varnish in a Flemish panel or a Van Dyck portrait might
crack differently over time.
She hasn't yet broken her own screen: "I've spent so long looking at
smashed phones that mine has come to seem abnormal," she says. "I can't
quite believe it. I keep looking at it and thinking: 'What's wrong with
Although he doesn't like to admit it, Jake
did cry (slightly) when his iPod broke. He was running about
at a festival with the iPod in his back pocket and when he
took it out to check the time, he realised that the screen
had been horribly smashed by a metal stud poking out of his
jeans. It took a whole load off his back that the
touchscreen wasn't broken and his iPod wasn't dead forever,
but the lines are quite annoying when you want to watch or
The cycle trip to meet a friend for coffee
in Camberwell nearly ended in disaster because an idiot
woman in a car pulled into the bus lane without looking and
almost clipped Paul. That's not what cracked his screen
though. It fell out of his hand and onto the ground while he
was animatedly explaining his recent close shave. He was a
bit shocked, but not that upset as it still works fine and
he has lost plenty of phones. The cracks make an interesting
pattern and make you wonder: where was the point of impact?
It was the work
Christmas party. They were celebrating and Roger had a
bottle of drink in one hand and his phone in the other. A
colleague went to grab the bottle. She missed it altogether
and knocked the phone on the floor. Roger was devastated as
he had only had his phone two weeks, but soon got over it.
It works, which is the main thing. The HTC OM1 is a very
good phone, very reliable. He has had it for nearly two
years since it got cracked and even after losing bits of the
screen and falling in water a couple of times it still works
Sarah was not at all happy to find her
Vodafone broken by unknown incident in handbag.
Adam has an old type of HTC, which used to
belong to his Mum. Angry, because it kept turning off
randomly, he threw it at a wall. It fell face down onto his
bed and when he turned it over and saw that it was smashed,
his heart dropped. It still works fine though and it looks
quite cool. It is a nice break he thinks. He hopes he might
get a new phone soon because this one is getting old.
Sam was angry with his girlfriend - it was
just a silly drunk argument. Not really thinking what he was
doing, he put his hand in his pocket, grabbed his phone and
squeezed as hard as he could until he felt it pop. He pulled
it out of his pocket and thought "Oh s---, that was really
stupid." Perhaps he had tempted fate, as he always kind of
showed off about his iPhone 5 working fine and being in
perfect nick. Now it is slowly falling apart. He has to keep
poking the button at the bottom back in and bits of glass
scrape his cheek as he puts it to his ear. He is due for an
upgrade, but has been really busy and hasn't got his act
together to go and get one yet.
Stefano's phone was trodden on in a
nightclub. It still works. It has been like this for months
now and it doesn't seem to bother him much.
All images by Sam Hodge