7a10m/e: Comments & Reports.
The pervasiveness of mobile phones make them a fertile ground for playful interventions. 30 art conference attendees agreed to perform a loose set of (un)usual acts with dummy cell phones and report on their experiences.
The project prompted distinct and passionate responses among participants and observers. Some got into play mode with a lot of enthusiasm. Some couldn't keep up with the 7a10m/e due to a lack of time and decided to continue activities in their daily lives after the conference. Others didn't find meaning and purpose in the project and pulled out all toghether...
In my corner I spoke into my phone.
"Hey... How are you?"
And the guy across the way looked up expectantly. I caught his eye and... But continued.
"Did you hear what happened in California today?"
"Yeah. Do you want to move hear and get married?"
It was an intimate/non-intimate exchange between us...
Frankly as an action, the cellphone project was neither appealing nor interesting to me. I can't imagine circumstances under which I would prefer to waste time on the phone (fake or real) when I could take the same time & energy to marvel at the landscape, aromas, air & rest in my own thoughts. If I give other people using a phone any thought at all, it typically is contempt or pity. No beauty, no meaning, no humor. Not my bag.
Your project is interesting and I was happy to participate. Using the instructions you gave as a guide, here are my notes on my experience of executing the project:
ACTION 1: I pretended to answer a call, which, by the way — it was great the my fake phone said "Julia calling..." since that is the name of my wife... and she happened to actually call on my real phone while I was on my fake call, so she went to voicemail. This action felt natural to me, as I am observant of people and my surroundings when I am on a call in public space anyway. It provides a mode of people watching that I find interesting.
ACTION 2: I indeed polished the hell out of my phone. The funny thing is that no one seemed to notice, or they at least did not seem to care. Or maybe they made a mental note "that crazy guy is polishing his phone as if it were his shoe" to recall later with laughter.
ACTION 3: I answered the call and paced in a circle in open space with people around. I visibly looked impatient, a bit bored, at my imaginary friend's monologue. I looked up at the sky, rolled my eyes, kicked a few stones, stood as if I could not wait to get off the phone. Again, it was as if nobody noticed or cared, but then again what I was doing looked "normal".
ACTION 4: The yo-yo is where things came to a crashing end. It took me a bit to tie the string on properly, then to figure out how to fashion it to my finger. On the very first try the phone came loose from the string and crashed onto the pavement, and actually came apart. I managed to snap it back together, and tried a few times to yo-yo it, but there was not much yoing to be had. I think a few people did notice this time, but I think pretended to not stare. Then again, the fact that I was doing this at the Interrupt conference with many public performances going on, people probably thought I was just part of the act (which of course would have been correct!).
ACTION 5: I balanced my phone on my head on my way to and from the men's restroom just outside the gallery on the second floor. Someone I had met earlier made a passing joke, but I did not catch all that they had to say.
ACTION 6: This also felt normal in a way, texting in public space. But I performed this as if I were really savvy at doing it with one hand... fast and accurate and with an air of nonchalance. I tried to text faster and faster with the one hand until my fingers started to hurt.
I hope these notes are helpful — the project was interesting to perform. It made me realize how much of my own real cell phone conversations are various kinds of performances in a way. People have ways of performing while "using" something in public... cell phones, cigarettes, etc. I once had a friend tell me that the reason he would not quit smoking is that he would have to learn how to act in public all over again.
I have a short narrative of art and telephonic cheating.
You engaged me for your project while I was working with another artist.
CHEATING #1. Title: One volunteer for two artists — an artistic prostitution?
I did two of the actions easiest to do (holding the phone and the mirror) while I was working at my other assignment (conversation about art and life).
CHEATING #2. Title: Double cheating. Mixing projects.
[ Note: I felt like Mata Hari ]
I did the "wings" action while I was watching other artistic projects.
CHEATING #3. Title: When the spectator starts acting like a chicken, speaking in Italian to a fake phone.
Note: I felt more like a chicken than an angel. Do I have spiritual problems or too short wings?
I couldn't do the water action: I decided to skip it since the only moment I was close to the fountain I was with my "original" artist. I thought that it could be too much for him having a cheating collaborator who acts in a strange way just in front of him.
Title: the coward non-action.
My last contribution to your project was the cellphone-tower right before dinner. That was my last cheating: I cheat regarding your faux phone, I admit it. I cheat since I used my real cell phone, because I was worried about my husband's lift to San Jose. I put my fake phone on top of the tower I ran out speaking on the other phone.
Cheating # 4. Title: Choices between art and a ride.
Thanks for asking my participation at the performance!
Thank you for approaching me and asking me to participate in 7a10m/e. It was so exciting to be welcomed to the conference in such a way. Your gesture made me curious about what other types of games were being played and performances were being acted out unbeknownst to me. Perhaps I was an unwitting participant in some projects that occurred that weekend; I'll never know for certain but it's quite fun to imagine the possibilities. Regardless, I enjoyed being part of an embedded participatory performance project while experiencing the Rethinking Art as Social Practice conference.
I managed to carry out four of the actions listed on the stickers you gave me. I took the stickers off their paper backing and affixed them to an invitation to a gallery show, one of the cards that was stacked in a pile at the registration desk.
I carried out my first action early, during the Friday panel discussion. It was the one about flipping your phone open and closing it repeatedly, [FLIP FLOPPING]. It was quite soothing and while I was at first self-conscious about it, I quickly became comfortable because no one seemed to notice my action at all. They were all focused on the panelists.
In the afternoon I started to become stressed as I hadn't carried out any more actions and still had a lot to do. I sat with some people at a cafe on campus and carried out the [SHOES] action. I put the phone under my heel so it was between my foot and my sandal. I left it there and I did notice one person I was in conversation with glance down at my foot a few times. She didn't say anything about it.
Later that afternoon, I worked with Nao Bustamante on her Future Video project and had an incredibly intense experience with it that I won't go into right now. What's noteworthy is that after this interaction, I wanted to be alone to keep thinking about the experience I'd just had. But I did not want to leave the conference as I was there with a friend and I wanted to eat dinner with everyone. I looked at my card with the actions on it again and noticed [SPACEMAKER POSE] and immediately decided to act it out. I sat on a cement wall and curled myself up into a ball, facing away from people. I put the phone up to my ear. I sat this way for at least ten minutes. It felt good to hug myself in the warm sun in public.
I responded to this challenge with a lot of enthusiasm but just couldn't focus on seven actions in addition to focusing on the new environment I was in, the new people, the new ideas and so forth. I was glad to have this secret, intimate connection with you, though. I experience mild levels of social anxiety at these kind of professional gatherings where I don't know anyone at all, and this project helped me to feel as though I belonged at this event and was a part of it. I'm sure it also accessed deeper needs to belong and feel connected to other humans, more so than just connected to this conference.
Thanks for including me (albeit at random) in your cell phone project.
Here are my rough thoughts...
Does the cell phone, as cultural icon, need the attention of an "art project"?
When approached by you, one of the questions you asked me was... (and I am paraphrasing) "do you hate your cell phone and ever want to smash it?" I found that to be an odd question, and it got me to thinking about my cell phone and the world in which we live. I tried to imagine my life without a cellular phone, and shuddered at the thought. My current cell phone gives me email, text, phone calls, etc... basically acts as a computer when I am not near my computer. While i could take the stand of "my cell phone is annoying and wont leave me alone", i find that instead, i enjoy being able to keep on-top of my busy life at all times. I think it is normal to lament the past at times, but the cell phone has been, and continues to be, the brunt of many unnecessary cultural punch lines.
Does this sort of mediated interaction work?
I read through your list of suggested actions, and found myself uninterested in doing any of them. I sort of thought about hiding the phone on campus and giving you a map on how to find it (sort of reversing roles with you, and appropriating your object), but in the end, I wound up doing very little with the phone. Possible the interaction would have been more compelling if the phones handed out were real (maybe not feasible due to costs involved?), and maybe those real phones could only dial one number... your cell phone. In your commitment to the project, if you agreed to answer the phone any time any place during the conference, then perhaps the piece would have become an investigation into the role of cell phone use in public and what is considered appropriate behavior... which is, I think, a similar idea to your original project?
I did see some crazy things:
- Sara Thacher was decorating the phone with white stickers and she asked me to help her.
- Dustin O'Hara was talking to me and he slammed his cell phone on the ground as he was leaving.
- I saw a tower of cell phones the first night. It looked like someone made a cell phone sculpture.
I really did not see many people using cell phone at the conference, but here are some observations.
STUDENT, girl: walks and talks up the green area steps. Politely keeping the voice down, often people talk very loudly on cell phone, at least here in the east coast. Her dark long hair hides the phone.
JAMIE: sleekly picks up the phone once or twice also brief and social pleasant. Both Natalie and Jamie seemed to have mastered the complexity of using iPhones.
RANDY (what is his last name?) flips his phone once in a while and wipes of the screen, I am not sure if he is checking the time or expecting a call or doing housekeeping.
JULIE: she said, she does not have a cell phone but I saw her pick up a call and spoke in French. Perhaps she is out of minutes and don't want to give her phone # or maybe not. Also she did not excuse herself or give us warning.
I don't know if this is related, but near the talking circle I saw a silver and black cellphone on the ground. I think It also had some chocolate on it.
I noticed the guy next to me had an iPhone, he took it out of his bag and didn't use it. Walking to the Sesnon [gallery], Josh Greene was making arrangements to meet with his sister on his cell. When he spoke out loud I thought he was talking to me. I think he said something like, "I'm leaving in five minutes." I said, "really?" but then noticed he was talking on his phone, not me. Later, I turned on my cell and called Beth. She answered after two rings and we agreed to meet a few minutes later. When I saw her, she was on her cell phone again and I followed her as she talked until she finished her conversation. When I got in my car to go home, I noticed my cell phone battery was low...
Participants: Sara Thacher, Lindsay Kelley, E.G. Crichton, Marco Rosichelli, Enrique Lopez, Phoenix Toeux, Alex Henriquez, Alyssa Salomon, Silvia Salvadori, Matthew Bryant, Scott Kildall, Gregory Sale, Naama Grossbard, Julie Perini, Dustin Ohara, Liz Rossof, Vanessa Brunet, Anna Fock, Celeyce Matthews, Venecia Buttoglia, Melissa Chevalier, Gary Wiseman, Danielle Kelly, Brad McCallum, Pawel Kwascniewski, Dan McKereghan, Lee Wen, Randy Gledhill, Adina Bar-On, Max Infeld, Lori Gordon, Aaron Gach, Nathalie Loveless.
Observers: Victor Nguyen, Susan O'Malley, Emily Peet Likes, Jonathan Santos, Julie Bacon, Heather Mikolaj, Joseph Delappe, Charles Labelle, Eric Steen, Sean Yao, Arielle Conway, Miki Foster, Cassidy Mehlmann.
Props: Michael Yoo, wirelessLAND, San Francisco; MD Dundon; Danny Buskirk.
Project 7a10m/e was part of so called Low Footprint performances — works with minimal technical requirements — organized by Jamie McMurry, Natalie Loveless and Lindsay Kelley. This three-day conference and was hosted by University of California Santa Cruz hosted a month long series of interventionist exhibitions in collaboration with UCSC's Art Department; Sesnon Gallery, UCSC; the LAB, San Francisco; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose.
Interventionist practices use interruptions to question norms by using humor, surprise, and unusual associations to overturn assumptions about the world. Such practices work within societal structures to re-examine set ideas, subvert norms, map hidden systems and allow us to see and think in new ways.
Momentarium creates situations where our very presence becomes the catalyst for shifting experiences we can integrate into our lives by fusing reality with co-created artifice.