In the past, I’ve featured design-y switch plates/light switches that subtly scream, “turn me off!” before you leave a room. Well, German artist Katrin Baumgarten has taken the concept of home energy conservation via attention-grabbing switch plates to a whole new level with an installation art piece — don’t expect to see these any time soon at your local Bed, Bath & Beyond — where a series of 14 ordinary switches are given rather repulsive makeovers. As a result, they don’t-so-subtly scream: “turn me on ... if you dare!”
Among the highlights of Baumgarten’s exhibit are a switch that spits out sticky goo when it’s flipped on and a furry switch with a pilomotor that causes little hairs to stand up when you attempt to touch it. Ack.
Through its simplicity and its everyday occurrence, the interaction with a switch has been marginalised into subconscious behaviour. We do not recognize its existence anymore, although this elementary form of interaction is a basic part of our life and controls our use of energy.
It’s a clever but not entirely practical concept with one huge flaw — so what if you gather up the courage to switch a light on but then are too chicken to go back and turn it off?