Marion Pinaffo &
Léa Bardin & Juliette Pollet
"In the electronic tropics, paper mutates. On this printed land, we stride along the silkscreened silver paths and their networks of batteries and connected roots, we pick bunches of metamorphosis and plant a projection space where intuition leads the game. Rules are simple: developing spontaneous shapes, a free and fictional act, in order to set new linguistics between machine and paper."
Both trained as designers, Marion Pinaffo and Raphaël Pluvinage create experiences and interactions dealing with the "assumed” complex phenomena of our world. With their project, Papier Machine, they are laureate of the cultural programme Audi talents awards, 2016, and have been supported by the residency Program Te Ataata in New Zealand.
Born in Tarn (France) in 1987, Marion graduated from Ensci - Les Ateliers as designer and l’Ensaama Oliver de Serres in metal craftmanship. Since then she invents graphic systems that the public can play with. Whatever the scale or the material, from spaces to object, she engages the public into experiences both intuitive and singular, bringing joys and enthusiasm.
She worked for the design studio Doshi Levien in London, and collaborates often with the french illustrator Benoît Bonnemaison-Fitte and the graphic/illustration studio Forme Vives. She has been commissioned by several cultural institution such as Centre Pompidou and La Villette in Paris, or Biennale du design in Saint Etienne.
Born in Montpellier (France) in 1986, Raphaël graduated from Ensci - Les Ateliers and the University of Technogy Compiègne. Whether an object, a game, an installation or a film, Raphaël’s projects all stem from a world where technology is turned on its head. He creates a world where pleasure, play and experience become differents tools to critically engage the audience and shift their understanding of their own relationship with technology.
He was commissioned by the Gaité Lyrique and Biennale Internationale de Design de Saint-Etienne, and his work can be seen in the permanent collection of the French FNAC (Fonds National d’Art Contemporain) and has been exhibited internationally. Apart his personal work, Raphaël worked with London-based speculative and interactive design studio Superflux, and co-funded Smiirl, an Internet of Things start-up, as lead designer.
Written by Juliette Pollet.
"Knowing the images that surround us also means broadening the contact possibilities with reality, seeing, and understanding more."
— Bruno Munari¹
We start this exploration by diving into a world that is both familiar and mysterious: the microcosmos enclosed within our everyday electronic devices. Looked at closely, printed circuit cards become cityscapes, and our phones’ components resemble little creatures. Papier Machine (Paper Machine) invites us to meet with these ghosts in the shell.
The electronic mechanisms that we constantly interact with keep escaping us; they’re supposedly invisible, intangible, and impossible to understand. Who knows that we have gyroscopes in our phones? Who knows these devices make our screens automatically rotate from a portrait to a landscape orientation? Marion Pinaffo and Raphaël Pluvinage’s project aims to deconstruct these black boxes that we manipulate everyday without knowing how they work. To paraphrase and contradict of one of Clarke’s laws² , Papier Machine provides us with tools that help us tell technology apart from magic, by revealing its materiality and its principles. A joyful demystification adventure that makes the world slightly more intelligible.
This research produced two sets of functioning prototypes. The first is a booklet that gathers 13 self-assembly paper games; the second is a set of 4 posters, forming together a space to activate. In other terms, a collection of silk-screened gadgets and a 2D amusement arcade. For although the project is meant to be didactic, Papier Machine doesn’t impose any specific protocol, but only games and toys that one should experiment with. Scratching a surface with a graphite pencil, throwing papier-mâché projectiles, making confetti piles: through these rudimentary and iterative interaction modes, the user gets acquainted with electronic principles. These are exercises that invite us to put things into practice. The goal is not to develop a DIY phone, but “that one acquires experimentally what is the specialist’s prerogative”, a comment borrowed from Enzo Mari describing his manifesto project Autoprogettazione³ .
The educational intention takes shape in an economy of means and shapes, whose simplicity is a playful challenge in itself. As pointed out in its title, Papier Machine is mainly made of paper, a familiar material that one isn’t afraid to mess up with. Paper is layered, creased, folded, bent, cut, fragmented, frayed, flattened, hung on walls, assembled into volumes: these simple actions enable super low-tech though interactive experiences. Colored and/or reactive printed inks (the silver ink is power conductive, others are thermosensitive) bring the pages to life. A kit of components is provided to activate the result, including, for instance, batteries as well as propellers. Each toy offers MacGyver-like challenges: producing a sequencer only with a pencil and a battery, building a sort of primitive pinball machine in no time at all, or putting together a folded paper hovercraft. However, instructions are deliberately laconic, and the results are always uncertain. Anyone is free to interpret the manual in his or her own way, but also to decide of his or her own commitment level, and to rephrase, if needed, their intuitive understanding of whatever mechanism.
Nothing is given to the user straight away, except for shapes and colors, themselves meant to be misleading to the eye and the mind. Far from restraining themselves to the expectation of a scientific protocol leading to specific results, the games are experiences rich in signs and in chance discoveries. The designers took advantage of the decorative potential of printing techniques often restricted to an exclusively functional use. At first glance, some of the pages covered with labyrinths, moiré patterns, and mosaics seem to belong to the Grammar of Ornament. Only a closer look reveals the conductive lines. Raster graphics, a usually imperceptible pattern made to be seen from afar, for posters for instance, become sign “texturizers,” once again in Bruno Munari’s words³.
Papier Machine’s silver circuits and toggle switches thus stand far away from their conventional industrial referents. Our eyes wander around the colorful labyrinths, and our minds drift towards handball fields, racetracks, and paper architectures.