This Agency's Art Installation in Brooklyn Spreads a Little Warmth

See George Barratt-Jones's 'Hand Warmenizer'

A new social experiment in Brooklyn from agency SuperHeroes was designed to warm hands and spark conversations. It might just warm your heart a little bit, too.

On a frigid day in late January, the creative shop teamed up with artist George Barratt-Jones to install a "Hand Warmenizer" in Domino Park. Made of reinforced plywood, the device stood four feet high, with an electric heater fan deep inside, and slots on top to accommodate up to 12 cold hands.

"We put it down, and seconds later we already had our first hands inserted, even before we turned the heater on," Barratt-Jones tells Muse. "On top it said 'Insert Hands,' which apparently sounded like a command."

A nearby camera recorded this footage over the course of several hours:

Warming Up New York

The design allowed passersby to thaw out their fingers … and, naturally, conversations ensued, as more than 100 people took advantage of the Warmenizer that day.

"From kids to adults, everybody was enthusiastic," Barrett-Jones recalls. "Topics were really diverse, from chitchat to daydreaming about having one of these at every traffic light." The project was "all about creating more fun in our daily lives," he adds, "making people 10 percent happier by giving them a fun experience and having them interact with strangers."

As for worries about germs? "People had absolutely no problem inserting their hands, because you never had to touch it [or each other]," Barratt-Jones says. "You float your hands inside, as opposed to a New York subway handrail." 

(Hey, that sounds safe-ish, sort of.)

SuperHeroes reached out to the artist after admiring some of his earlier installations, such as his Cyclo Knitter (a bike that kitted shawls on a railway platform) and First Class Bus Stop (a pop-up cafe serving coffee and treats).

"George's goal is to bring happiness by design," says agency executive creative director Rogier Vijverberg. "That's a principle we very much support, and also the reason we invited him to collaborate."

However, this was not always the case with SuperHeroes, which rose to prominence with shocking IRL stunts, mainly for electronic giant LG. These included an elevator with a "vanishing" floor, and scary scenarios set during mock job interviews and in restrooms.

"In the past we indeed became famous for doing viral videos with pranks," Vijverberg says. "We did it at the time because it was great for grabbing attention. This day and age, however, doesn't need more pranks. What we need is more humanity and more lighthearted acts of bringing people together."

David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is managing editor at Clio Awards.

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