The Gramohorn is a 3D printed acoustic speaker, designed exclusively for the HTC One smartphone.
Sound emitted from the phone's speakers is chanelled and amplified, increasing volume by up to 50% without the need for power or cables. Acting as resonance chambers, lower frequencies and bass notes are also enhanced to produce deeper, fuller and 'better' music. Based on simple mechanics of a by-gone era, time-honoured forms have been redesigned and adapted for the smartphone generation. 3D printed in a delicate plaster-based composite material and carefully hand-finished or alternatively available in limited edition stainless steel - each Gramohorn is made-to-order, making each one uniquely personal and one-of-a-kind.
The design aims to function as a commercial product as well as contemporary art, in prompting discussion and thought around materiality and physicality. Essentially questioning the lack of uniqueness in 3D printed objects, the Gramohorn attempts to introduce values such as 'bespoke', 'customised', 'hand-finished', and 'limited edition' to offer a conceptual counterbalance and theoretical underpinning to the project, that is part Art, part Design.
On a basic and product-orientated level, the Gramohorn aims to address the increasingly mediated capability of smartphones, in hand with the growing accessibility of digital music. With mobile devices now featuring front-facing stereo speakers and improved audio quality, the investigation into harnessing sound output from mobile devices is now worth pursuing, towards creating a design that is sympathetic to the handset and current zeitgeist.
On a deeper and academically-orientated level, the Gramohorn aims to address various contemporary and philosophical issues, prompting discussions otherwise reserved for fine art:
The wake of the industrial and digital revolutions have had a huge psychological impact on the way objects are perceived in society. The very ability to reproduce and disseminate 'copies', whether physical or digital, has destroyed the once unquestionable and absolute singularity of an object and along with it, the values engrained within. With cultural theorists having once predicting art's democratisation and class disassociation as a result of reproducibility, the truth is that today's situation is far from this utopian-esque vision, having instead developed into a complex and sometimes paradoxical relationship between art, design and the commercial world.
Time-honoured concepts intrinsic to art, such as 'uniqueness', 'originality', 'authenticity' and 'historical testimony' start to buckle in today's creative scene, with instances of artists acting as designers as well as designs acting as art. With many artists removing themselves from the fabrication process, it would seem that the importance and involvement of the original creator counts for very little in regards to an object's 'historical testimony'. Moreover, with so many designer products and labels capitalising on notions of 'authenticity' and 'originality', despite being knowingly mass-produced, it would also seem that the very values that were once intrinsic to an object's singular physicality are now independent of the object itself and instead exists in society's shared understanding and knowledge of this illusion.
The ongoing debate as to what ultimately counts as art is complicated further by 3D printing, in the technology's inherent ability to produce infinite replicas, where the indistinguishable difference between 'original' and 'copy' renders the applicability of 'uniqueness', 'originality', 'authenticity' and 'historical testimony', tenuous and debatable. But can these apparent limitations be subverted or overcome? Can art-values be instilled and exist within the contradictory nature of 3D printing? Can 3D printed objects reach the potential of being viewed and accepted as legitimate works of art?
The Gramohorn project attempts to establish end enforce 'uniqueness', 'originality', 'authenticity' and 'historical testimony' in 5 ways:
- Introducing a human element in hand-finishing and assembly
- Offering a wide choice of colours and finishes
- Establishing a limited print run to control supply
- Adding a unique number to each model prior to printing (metal-based version only)
- Deleting 3D model files after completion of print run
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