statement voices phone in Edith Russ Media Haus Credits Home

Cellular Tran_actions: 091101


I arrived to Oldenburg on September 11th, at about 3pm. Exhausted, I put down my luggage and took a few breaths before meeting with the people from the company that would sponsor the streaming. After our meeting, Rosanne told me that she just heard there was an incident in New York and that the World Trade Center was burning... I ran to my studio and sat in front of the computer for the rest of the night. Jet-lagged and tired, I searched for live streams, checked lists, chatted with Robert who was filling me in. Exhausted, I could not sleep... What am I doing here? Who cares about avatars and others in situations like this? I wanted to go back, but airports were closed, I tried to get in touch with family and friends in NY, but lines were down... What is the role of media artists in extraordinary times like these?

I started asking myself many questions: How does this event change our perception of self? Why is it so difficult to imagine something positive of equal magnitude happening in the world? What kind of personas we would assume now if we wanted to imagine changing this situation - one of a warrior or a peacemaker? What is the role of media arts in these extraordinary times? How does one create work that does not capitalize on the tragedy, further enflame anger or create more fear? Do I cancel or do something? I decided that being passive is not the answer, that it is important to have the response+ability. Watching the media spin the events convinced me that we have to be proactive and offer space for alternative narratives to emerge.

During my weeklong residence at the Edith Russ Media Haus, I developed an entirely new installation. I took the images from television, removed all logos and colors and degraded them completely, so much so that they became blurry and only a few frames were recognizably from New York. The rest could be from any part of the world that has suffered the same kind of violence. These could be images from Hiroshima, the Gulf War, Panama, Guatemala, Kosovo, Chechnya… A person standing in front of this backdrop is mirrored by the camera streaming their reflection on the Internet. The delay of the mirror image varies, depending on the net traffic. On the third projection are the questions that I was asking myself and the audience during the opening night cell phone performance.

The opening night of this show was on September 14th, the day of mourning that was observed in the US and by many in the Western world, I asked the audience to consider this and talk to each other about it via their cell phones, in German. These conversations were streamed live and recorded for later access on the web site that accompanies this piece. I hope the dialogue continues during the entire duration of the show and beyond. A telephone number for this purpose was established by the gallery. The number can be called on cell phones in the installation, in which case they would stream live, or from a private location, anonymously. These recordings will also be archived on this site.

When I returned to the US, I decided it was important to gather impressions here. It will be interesting to see how the experiences differ as one is more and more geographically removed...

Victoria Vesna