Remember playing Telephone as a kid? You would sit in a circle and whisper a secret message from person to person. The last person would say the message as they recieved it and everyone would get a kick out of how it had changed as it was passed around. We at Satellite Collective, a collaborative arts company in New York City, are playing Telephone but with a couple twists.
Instead of passing a message via language alone, we're passing a message from artist to artist and from art form to art form. So a message could become a poem and the poem could be interpreted as a painting, and then a film, and then music, sculpture, choreography and so on. You can see (or hear) the message as it evolves through successive art forms. Seeing the message move from artist to artist is both fascinating and astonishing.
Another twist is that, instead of passing the message to a single person, we're assigning each work of art to three other artists. So the "game map" branches out like a family tree. A painting might be interpreted as film, music, and prose. We're doing this for a few reasons. For one, it's amazing to compare the three interpretations, since they're all responses to the same work. Secondly, if a single artist doesn't send their work back to us within the allotted time, it doesn't hurt the momentum of the whole project. Lastly, encouraging the exponential growth of the game allows us to involve as many artists in as many parts of the world as possible. In the first month of this year-long experiment, almost 200 artists from 30 countries and 27 states played with us!
At the end of the game next summer, Satellite Collective is going to publish every work of art online. The site will work like a "choose your own adventure" book. You will start at the originating message and navigate through a thread of your choosing. Then you can go back to the original message and navigate an entirely different thread. Being able to surf thousands of original, sequentially created works of art by artists from every part of the world will be jaw-dropping. We're also host a few physical showings of various threads.
As you can imagine, administering an arts game of this magnitude takes a lot of work. Nathan, our project manager for Telephone, has had to spend a growing number of hours each day fielding questions, assigning works to artists, accepting submitted pieces, and dealing with an every expanding list of logistical challenges. Daniel, Satellite Collective's web manager, is busy designing the site and programming a huge automated application. We're also working on publicity, finding space for physical showings, and soliciting work from as many artists as possible. It's a big job but when we're done, we'll have created one of the biggest datasets of original, interdisciplinary artwork in history.
Audacious? Yes. Possible? Definitely.
Our $5,500 Kickstarter goal is only a fraction of what this project will cost over the next year to pull off this massive international initiative but it will give us breathing room while we continue spending huge amounts of our time administrating the game and searching for further sources of funding.
Anything you can give will help us help artists connect.
IF YOU ARE AN ARTIST or know an artist who wants to play Telephone: Please read and share this article at Transmission, the interdisciplinary online arts journal by Satellite Collective.
Risks and challenges
If Telephone continues for the rest of the year at the pace of its first month, the project would generate over 166,000 original works of art. The idea of that many works of art is both hilarious and terrifying. We don't expect that we're going to get that much participation but we still want to get as far as we can by next summer.
One challenge will be to keep up with solicitations, questions, and submissions in a timely manner. If an artist writes in wanting to play, we want to get back to them as soon as possible. But already the project is getting so big that it takes hours and hours to "stay on top of the wave."
We're addressing this challenge in a number of ways. Firstly, we're building automation into our process to cut down on turn around time. We're also beginning to bring in new staff to help with day-to-day correspondence. It will be the job of our management to make sure that our turn around time with our participating artists remains prompt and personal.
We're also in the midst of planning the physical showings of some of the threads. Our goal is to have at least three gallery showings, one on the West Coast, one in New York City, and one in Europe. We're in talks with curators in all three locations to tackle some of the very complicated logistics involved with shipping and installing physical works internationally. On this front, we're enlisting the assistance of very experienced curators in New York City.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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