Constructive Deconstruction at South Florida Museum



Don’t miss the last chance to visit Things Come Apart at the South Florida Museum before its finale on August 19. In this exhibit, circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, conceptual artist and photographer Todd McLellan dissects the inner workings of everyday objects, vintage and modern, from the evergreen bicycle to the BlackBerry smartphone, and meticulously arranges their elements in frames, each complete with a component count.

SRQ: Where does your inspiration come from? McLellan: I was always inspired by how things work and older technology, more so in the design and engineering. As a kid coming from a hands-on family, I would tinker a lot at home. Shortly after I moved to Toronto, I began collecting various mechanical objects from the street on garbage day or second hand shops. They sat in my office for years, even using some of them such as the Old Phone. I wanted to give them new life in some way. Showing them inside and out seemed fitting. As I continued to explore, I moved into newer technology so that the pieces could be juxtaposed.

Why do you think people enjoy seeing objects dismantled? We all use everyday objects around us without taking a second thought about what’s inside. This triggers everyone’s inner curiosity. Some of the pieces have a nostalgia to them. I hear stories about how their grandfather used to use this typewriter or they had a radio like that when they were growing up. It triggers a fond memory. I enjoy the older pieces for the same nostalgic reason, and the newer ones for their genius engineering.

Has anything surprised you when you deconstructed it? The surprise usually comes in small packages. I would look at a little object and guesstimate how many parts are inside. When I start to disassemble it, I’m shocked. The parts keep coming and coming. It amazes me, the engineering behind each one and what they designed to fit in such small spaces and yet work so efficiently.

What kind of reactions to your art do you receive? I get a lot of feedback from people on how the pieces were involved in their life in some way, from being personally involved in the creation of an object to how a family member would use it. When I was on exhibit in San Francisco, I had an engineer come up to me and start telling me exactly what each piece did. Apparently he was involved in the development of it. Most recently, [I met] a gentleman who was forced to take accordion lessons as a child and was fond of the Apart Accordion due to the destruction of it. Let’s just say he’s no Michael Guerra.

What do you hope people will take away from the exhibit? With a better understanding of the world around us we can learn how to appreciate it and keep it going longer. I believe this for all aspects of life from cultural to technological.

Pictured: Rotary telephone made by Northern Electric in the 1980s, deconstructed by the artist. Photo by Todd McLellan.

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