For more articles or projects by Graham Hay.

iHeads by Artist Graham Hay


The beginning, part of the first iHead, made from thousands of ceramic iphones

Pictures of the work in progress are are posted almost daily at

Increasingly complex technologies come between myself, and loved ones. 

So I'm looking more closely at them, their material and social history.

Some Musings

Clay is more than pots and sculpture:

Many people associated clay with the creation of functional ware and artworks.

However, this is a tiny part of all total clay used:

Pottery clay is less than half a percent of all clay annually mined (350 million tonnes) in Australia. (ABS 8415.0).

Before digital devices, before paper, people used soft unfired clay to write on.

Cuneiform Clay tablets were the first recording devices, 3500 to 4000 years ago.

Parallels between now and then, illustrate how and why we use these devices.

For we only integrated technology into our lives, if it satisfies a basic need, and fits smoothly into our life, or hand.

"Many cuneiform tablets are dated by the year, month and day.  Tablets from monarchs, ministers and other important people were impressed with their seal, which was applied on the wet clay like a paint roller with a cylinder seal… Important messages were encased in an "envelope" of more clay to insure privacy."


"They were at the root of first libraries. Tens of thousands of written tablets ... in the Middle East"  

All very dry.  More interestingly:

"What these clay tablets allowed was for individuals to record who and what was significant. An example of these great stories was The Story of Gilgamesh. ... Remedies and recipes ..."

the oldest love poem dates back to this period, and is of similar size to a smart phone.

What would the hundreds of messages and images I send to friends and family look like, if each had to be individually made out of clay?

So I started making lots of iPhone size clay tablets, drying them, and stacking them up to see what sort of object and patterns occurred.  From his emerged the desire to make them "into something".

Over the last two decades I've also made many sculptures out of thousands of 1 x 2 cm clay bricks, as part of my commentary on local art institutions.  However, this multiple based work appeared to be more personal in nature. Over the first year of on and off making these iPhone clay tablets I had plenty of time to think about my other daily rituals and repetition.   For me, personal and public rituals and repetition create structure and order in our life, and so have a huge impact on self identity.   My ongoing research into SNAV has sensitised me to how form and frequency of social interaction has a huge impact on personal values, beliefs and so actions.  So I begun to look  more closely at how often, how long and with whom I used my own smart phone.  Apart from communicating with fifty odd students, my most frequent communications were with my wife, and daughter.

Perhaps because of our recent 25th wedding anniversary, I begun to focus more on this interaction.  With smart phones we began to merge our personal calls, texting, emailing, and Skype interactions into one device.  So, despite being physically apart for much of the day, and sometimes for weeks, we actually communicate quiet frequently.

Historically in the Arts, sculptors have expressed understanding of their, and our, relationships via the figure. For example, French sculptor Auguste Rodin is well known for a marble sculpture he created illustrating his perspective of a particular relationship:

The Kiss (originally titled Francesca da Rimini)

Image research:

I collected art images from the internet, of the The Kiss and other couples kissing or embracing.  Also collected was images of smart phones and smart phone art.  These were copied via Pinterest.

A series of small (30cm high) titled heads were created in ceramic wool paper clay, ceramic foam paper clay, and ceramic brick paper clay, plus plastic using a 3Doodler.  Smaller "fragmenting" heads were created, as well as small paper models and two 2.5 x 2.5 m (8' x 8') drawings.

Other unstructured thoughts:

Phones have become the most intimate medium for communicating, via phone, text, email and photos.
We have now begun “digitally kissing”, “digitally whispering”, we connect digitally. Even when in the same city!

To be continued…


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