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Year created:


Measure of Discontent: Sigh Collector

Michael Kontopoulos is an artist and designer, interested in constructing mechanical systems and tools for exploring the poetics of everyday human behavior. Through invention, experimentation and iteration, his systems evoke metaphors about social relationships and the human condition, reflecting on habits both conscious and unconscious. Born in Philadelphia, Michael has lived and worked in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles and has exhibited his work at various galleries, festivals and alternative spaces around the US, Asia and Europe.

He currently lives and works in Northeast Los Angeles, California. A home monitoring system that measures and 'collects' sighs. The result is a physical visualization of the amount of sighing, for personal use in a domestic environment.

The project is in two parts. The first part is a stationary unit, which inflates a large red air bladder upon receiving the appropriate signal. The second part is a mobile unit, worn by the user, which monitors breathing (via a chest strap) and communicates a signal to the stationary unit wirelessly when a sigh is detected. Part of a series called "Measure of Discontent", branching from my MFA work at UCLA's department of Design and Media Arts.

This work stems from the concept of measuring and representing anxiety. I was inspired by certain countries' efforts to impose quantifiable values to the "happiness" of its people—Notably, the tradition of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan. Or even contemporary magazine articles that aim to report the worlds "happiest countries." It follows that if you can measure happiness than you can also measure unhappiness. Taking this as my point of departure, this work investigates the idea of quantifying the subjective—in this case, national anxiety.