Tuesday, March 13, 2018

BPN 1737: The one-button mobile

Both pictures © Ton Mooy/www.bel-engel.nl 

An angel flew into my study recently. It looks like a regular angel with wings, but it is not. It is sporting a one button telephone and computer satchel and is fashionably dressed in a pantsuit. The angel is a miniature  of a statue standing on a 15 meter high pillar outside the gothic Saint John’s Cathedral in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands), built between the 14th and 16th century. The angel is overlooking a marketplace at the Southside of the Cathedral. The statue is one of a series of 14 angles carved during the restauration of  the gothic Saint John’s Cathedral. The modern angel was especially designed show that the prolonged restauration has been completed in modern times.

When the statue was unveiled in 2011, a tourists’ circus broke loose. Despite the one button for calls to heaven on the mobile, paid telephone numbers were published (see anecdote below). But also fridge magnets, pendants, mineral carved amulets and coarse miniatures were sold online and promoted on Twitter. However this wave passed by and artist Ton Mooy, who chiselled the statue of the mobile angel (auf Deutsch: handy Engel), has produced a miniature, resembling the statue.

To me the mobile angel embodies two eschatologies, two doctrines about the green grass on the other side. In the Christian religions angels are part of the end times, particularly of heaven. In ICT eschatology is the metaphor for the absolute best in devices and apps.

To the Christian eschatology I have been exposed for a quarter of my life. In fact, there was also a link with the Saint John’s Cathedral.  When I went to the minor seminary, a boarding school for boys who want to become Roman Catholic priests, we had one annual trip to the Cathedral. On the early morning  of the first Sunday in May, we went for a 30 kilometres walk from the neighbouring city of Tilburg to ‘s-Hertogenbosch. We attended mass and went back to the seminary by train. The pilgrimage was all part of the training, which included the church teachings about escatology such as heaven, angels, hell and devils as well as limbo and purgatory.

As life went on, I got a job in publishing, particularly in what first was called new media and as internet got introduced, has been coined digital media. We started out from mainframes to mini-computers, from desktop to notebooks, from personal digital assistants to smartphones and tablets. They all have a tax deductible cycle of three to five years, before the next, best thing has to acquired. So is the iPhone 10 the latest device to have as it is the next closest thing to heaven?

An angel sporting a one-button mobile and a computer satchel, may incorporate a glimpse of heaven for believers. For digital-media tifosi, it has not been heaven yet as no mobile manufacturer been able to disrupt  the industry with a one-button mobile. May be the speech assistants Siri and Alexa are showing the way? 

BTW. In a NYT article of  March 5, 2012 it is noted that “when Steve Jobs died, the phone rang endlessly. The angel told the callers: “Steve Jobs will soon arrive upstairs — perhaps I’ll get a new model!” 

For more information on Ton Mooy and the miniature, see: http://bel-engel.nl/ and http://www.beeldhouwertonmooy.nl/projecten/bel-engel. The information is in the Dutch language, but the sites contain also visual information.

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