household design: human error household design: human error
feb 23, 2011

household design: human error

‘human error’ by household design chinese arts centre, manchester, UK on now until 30 april, 2011

photograph overlain with operating instructions for one of the interactive machines in the ‘human error’ installation by household design

‘human error’, an series of interactive installations by household design studio (sarah gottlieb, george wu, and dario utreras), brings to manchester’s chinese arts centre an exploration of the relationship between machines and their human users.

particularly interested in the role of machines in mass production and transmission of information, the artists created a reinterpreted photocopier, printer, scanner, and photobooth for the exhibition. all of the intentionally overly complicated but essentially low-tech machines require the interaction of at least two visitors working together in order to function, encouraging human error and frustration even as it brings individuals together towards a common purpose. instruction manuals and diagrams throughout the exhibit space inform users of the roles and tasks they need to fulfill, which range from the strictly mechanical (‘sign and date the worksheet’, ‘turn off the light’) to the disarmingly human (‘please sit comfortably’).

the experience of interacting with the pieces varies from machine to machine, engaging different kinds of questions. the photocopier, for example, requires the input of twenty people in order to work at all, while the printer by contrast involves only two individuals, but accumulates successive marks throughout the exhibition, ultimately depicting the contribution of hundreds of visitors.

video teaser of the ‘human error’ installation

the artists note: ‘the smooth operation of our daily lives relies heavily on the assistance of various machines. technology makes our life easy but frustrates us when it lets us down. the exhibition highlights our reliance on machines to complete daily tasks and emphasizes the potential for human error.’

visitors work together to power a machine that requires that they stitch yarn

utreras and gottlieb (pictured here with a ‘human error’ machine) and wu are interested in how little we take conscious notice of our daily interactions with machines in offices, homes, and public

the photobooth machine, which requires the interaction of two visitors, includes the instructions ‘prepare for portrait’ and ‘please sit comfortably’

the designers at work on the machines

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