Call, phone call poetics


Germaine Koh is a Canadian visual artist active internationally. Her conceptually-generated work is concerned with the significance of everyday actions, familiar objects and common places. Her latest artwork, presented at ZeroOne San Jose / ISEA 2006 festival is entitled consists of a vintage telephone modified with programmable microcontroller and custom circuity. It is placed in a public space accessible to a wide range of people who are invited to pick up the receiver. The LCD display that replaces the phone’s dial informs the user that he will be connected with a random volunteer among those who agreed to receive calls and chat with strangers at all hours. The project is open-ended: there is no definite initial hypothesis and not a systematic method to gather data – no recordings, no forms, no surveys. The idea of the project is perpetuated by the word of mouth. According to the reports of the volunteers most callers want to know why the volunteers themselves decided to participate. Germaine Koh found interesting the fact that in the 15 or so calls she took over the first four days of display at the electronic art festival, only two of the people who called were involved in visual or media arts. “What might this reveal about how an ‘expert’ audience interacts with such a project?” – she asks. ‘Call’, as Koh’s entire production, is characterized as an attempt to be attentive to poetics of of daily life by focusing on those phenomena that shape everyday experience and allowing things that mediate our life to quietly speak back to people.

Valentina Culatti