Bless's Workout Computer


14 November 2014

"We describe our work as trying to suggest a variety of options where we feel there’s a lack," says Desiree Heiss, one half of fashion studio Bless. "It’s contributing to a debate, rather than saying 'This is shit, or that's shit.'"

The topic under consideration is the way in which people now work: the reliance upon laptops, smartphones and the sedentary lifestyle that they engender. Heiss, working with her partner Ines Kaag, has contributed to this debate with Workout Computer, a computer in which the keyboard has been replaced with a series of punching bags, each corresponding to a different letter, number or function on a standard keyboard.

Workout Computer was first exhibited in 2010, but is now being revisited in an expanded form for the Istanbul Design Biennial. The installation, a series of tan leather punchbags of various sizes are suspended and propped around an antique wooden bureau. If you want to type a message, you punch it out, the bags wired to the computer via internal sensors and cables. If you want to publish that message online or print it, you strike "publish" or "print pads.

"Ines found out quite early that movement or sports are absolutely crucial," says Heiss. "She's always complaining about having to spend so much time in front of the computer. It’s unbelievable how technology moves on and on and on, doing things faster and more comfortably. We thought it would be interesting if you could perform a profession that means you spend a lot of time in front of the computer, but balance that together with exercise. Somehow that’s more modern: bringing together the mind and the body. You rebalance."

"Generally it’s a very pragmatic approach," says Kaag. "The keyboard looks a little bit funny or not serious, but we think it works quite well as a statement. It's against all this development of technology on a high level without assessing the very basic needs of the human being."

The project is tied to the Istanbul Biennial's general theme of The Future Is Not What It Used To Be. Bless's computer examines the progression of digital technologies, suggesting that in creating devices that continually make life easier and more sedentary, developers and their work run contrary to other aspects of human existence. "It totally blanks out the physical needs we have," says Heiss. "What we exhibited in Istanbul is what we consider a good prototype for another idea of work."