• 01.18.13

625 Outdated Remote Controls Become A Remarkable Infrared Screen

An artist and programmer uses infrared “clickers” to build a lo-fi display in London.

625 Outdated Remote Controls Become A Remarkable Infrared Screen

It’s been nearly 65 years since remote controls came to market–at the time, the devices were called “Lazy Bones.” Much has changed since then (except for the lazy part), and these days, our smartphones are quickly relegating “clickers” to the landfill.


For Chris Shen, a London artist whose first solo show opens today at 18 Hewett Street, the irrelevance was the allure. Shen’s inaugural exhibition consists of a single installation: Infra, a sculpture made of 625 old remotes collected from trash heaps and secondhand shops across the city. “The remotes were discarded, or deemed useless by their previous owner,” Shen explains. “I will reverse the roles of these devices that are intended to control our TVs, to become the TV itself.”

Infrared remote controls act as transmitters, using a small infrared LED to send bursts of light–each representing a piece of binary code–to the television. It’s a simple call and response. Infra reverses that relationship by making each transmitter part of a larger display. The remotes act as pixels in a 625-pixel monochromatic screen; Shen controls their firing using a self-written script. “By exploring infrared technology,” he adds, “I hope to provide insight into a world that is by its very nature unseen.”

What’s remarkable about Infra is that visitors won’t actually be able to see it until they don a pair of goggles that make infrared light visible to human eyes. Without the goggles, it’ll seem like a curiosity–just another collection of outdated gadgetry.

Check out Infra until February 3 at 18 Hewett Street.

[H/t Creators Project]

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.