Join a chain of artists over 6 million kilometers long
Back in May (which feels like a lifetime ago) we wrote about the launch of the second edition of the TELEPHONE Game.
This sprawling, collaborative art project started with a simple message from the intiative’s creator, Nathan Langston, which has been passed from artist to artist, with each new person interpreting it in their own way.
“a radical expression of connectivity that stands defiantly in the face of social isolation“
Constantly mutating and evolving, being reimagined and reinterpreted – this message has travelled over 6 million kilometers via a vector chain of over 800 people. Against a backdrop of global pandemic, this telephone game has at once become both analogous to viral transmission, yet also a radical expression of connectivity that stands defiantly in the face of social isolation.
Whilst the game is still ongoing, the actual artworks in the chain must remain a secret so as not to influence the interpretive process. But we’ve been lucky enough to speak with three Human Hotel members, who joined the chain after our previous article, about their experiences being part of this amazing project.
If you’d like to join the game, check the info at the bottom of the page.
One piece of visual artist Marc Volk’s upcoming photo series. Working title: “Inside Out” Image: Marc Volk
Photographer, artist, and teacher
Image: Palma Llopis
Marc was invited to the Human Hotel community by a friend back in 2018, and even attended a talk given by our co-founder Martin in Berlin. He works as a professional photographer, artist, teacher and recently founded the International Photography School in Berlin.
What made you want to get involved with TELEPHONE?
“Since 2007, I’ve been teaching photography at a private school. I played the telephone game with my classes very often (more than 10 times), especially during the Christmas break. My 10-15 students usually have between 1 and 2 days to react to the received photo and pass it on to the next student.
Pieces from Marc’s ongoing project ‘Inside Out’. Images: Marc Volk
What did you receive, how did you interpret it, and what did you pass on to the next person in the chain?
“I have received two photographs of a three-dimensional object. The object hangs on the wall like a transparent candy wrapper made of black plastic grid and casts a shadow. Inside or above the bottleneck between the two black grid funnels there are three small golden balls. This description is of course insufficient, because the work of art shows much more in its simplicity and allows for different associations. I keep thinking of the filigree wings of a fly and have taken this association as the starting point for my photographic answer”.
I made the obvious relation of my work to the current exceptional situation due to the Corona crisis visible in my submission”.
“Politically, we are facing harsher times as it becomes clearer that people and nations are behaving selfishly.”
You mention Covid explicitly in your text; it seems that it was very present in your thought process whilst creating your piece – what are your thoughts on how it has affected connectivity and human relationships?
“I am pretty sure that Covid has been in the minds of almost everyone almost every day since March 2020. The virus has an enormous impact on many aspects of our daily lives, and some experiences are very similar no matter what continent you live on.
My greatest hopes are that Covid could make people aware that the world is smaller and more connected than expected. It also shows that everything can change quickly – the experience known as contingency. We can make many changes if we understand that they are necessary.
On the other hand, Covid brings many issues to the table that were previously under the radar. Politically, we are facing harsher times as it becomes clearer that people and nations are behaving selfishly. It looks like we have to deal more with different interests and realize that common sense is not self-evident.
Personally, I have seen that many relationships in my private environment have either broken apart or become closer in recent months. My biggest fear is that it will become more difficult to communicate between different people living in their different bubbles. This development has of course many different reasons (digitalization), but it is intensified by the experience of a pandemic”.
Pieces from Marc’s ongoing project ‘Inside Out’. Images: Marc Volk
What are you working on currently?
“I am currently working on a photo series that is linked to my experiences of the last months. I’m not sure about the exact title and presentation yet, but I will finish it later this year”.
‘It’s Just the Flu’ 2020, watercolour. Image: Tamera Bedford
Mixed-media visual artist
Tamera Bedford is a mixed media artist who is noted for her artistic practice and to the nature of her diverse subject matter. Her work turns to visual representation to capture her deep respect for environmental phenomena and beyond to biological life and the mental flows of the human brain.
Why did you join Human Hotel?
“I don’t remember exactly where I first heard about Human Hotel. Probably on Wooloo. I know that I immediately loved the concept”.
“I love everything that you are about: artists supporting artists, environmental concerns around travel, a desire to maintain the integrity of local communities, and just generally bringing amazing people around the world together“.
What made you want to get involved in the Telephone game?
“First, I wanted to get involved because I loved the concept and how organic it is. It’s about artistic exchange, but I think Nathan also started it through a deep-seated need to connect with others during what is a difficult time for so many people, myself included. My exchanges with him, and everyone else making all of this happen behind the scenes, have always been so warm and heartfelt. I initially joined Telephone because it felt like a project that would be artistically challenging to me. I never knew that it would end up being so much more. I’m excited, now, to see where it all goes”.
‘Spiraling out of Control’, 2020, acrylic and paper on canvas. Image: Tamera Bedford
Without revealing too much about the ongoing game, could you tell us a bit about the piece you received and how you interpreted it? What form of media was it, and what did you pass on to the next person in the chain?
“To be honest I’m not even exactly sure what it was that I received. Which was part of the fun, and challenge, for me in trying to interpret it.
What I got was a photo which was taken of what I initially thought of as sculpture. But the more I studied the image the more the piece began to morph for me. It might have been made by a jewelry artist. Or someone who works with textiles. In trying to come up with a way to visually interpret it through my medium, which in this case ended up being watercolor and ink on paper, I looked at the image for hours and hours. I literally studied every detail of it because I had absolutely no idea what message it was carrying to me. Zero. In a way I had to deconstruct it in my head before I could then begin to put it back together through what I made. After becoming so intimate with it, and it really felt that way to me, I reached a place where I was able to break down the various components of it in a way in which I hoped the next person would be able to read. So I feel like I didn’t really pass the message itself on, but more of the essence and structure of it.
“I love the idea that, without knowing each other, we’ve all managed to find our way to a singular project which joins all of our various artistic talents together around a very vague, very loose concept”
What are your thoughts on connectivity and human relationships in the post-covid world?
“That’s an interesting question for me to try to answer. I’m an American but I’ve been living in China (currently Hong Kong as you know) for almost 12 years. So a lot of my connections with friends and family have existed in a type of virtual format for a long time. I usually go back to the States in the summer to visit everyone but was unable to do so this year. At times I deeply miss the people and places I love back there and sometimes feel a bit torn apart by not knowing when I will see them again. I have learned to really try to focus on the here-and-now and not think back about the things I used to be able to do or what I might or might not be able to do in the future. I can really get myself down if I let my thoughts wander too far. Life can feel pretty claustrophobic sometimes.
Which is one reason why I’ve gotten so much out of playing Telephone. Through the game I’ve felt connected to so many people all over the world. I love the idea that, without knowing each other, we’ve all managed to find our way to a singular project which joins all of our various artistic talents together around a very vague, very loose concept. There is no way to measure it, but it would be interesting to know how many hours each artist put into their creations. I think people are taking very seriously what most would consider a child’s game. And I think that what is driving that is people’s need for connection now.
The fact that I am writing to you right now, via Nathan (who I’ve never met), says something about the power of Telephone”.
‘Once I was You (Love in the Time of Covid-19)’, 2020, mixed media. Image: Tamera Bedford
What projects have you been working on this year?
“I started making covid-related work back in early February. I think it’s a bit hard to remember that time now, but things were very scary at first. No one really knew what was going on, how serious it was, what we should or shouldn’t be doing. The fact that Hong Kong is geographically connected to mainland China, and it was the middle of Chinese New Year here, created a lot of fear and panic. Nothing was really happening in the rest of the world at that time, or at least nothing that anyone had any awareness of, so it was hard to know if your anxiety was an overreaction or not. We were all wearing masks weeks before the rest of the world started hoarding toilet paper. On top of all of that was the political upheaval happening here at the time. It’s the epitome of irony that around a year ago a law passed making it illegal to wear masks (the protesters used them to hide their identities and protect themselves from tear gas) which fueled massive protests and only 8 months later it is illegal to not wear one.
Everything I make right now feels political to me. I don’t know how anyone can make anything these days which isn’t. My artistic output during covid has been very prolific. And what I’m creating has a very different feel to it than what I was making pre-covid.
Fortunately I had the opportunity to participate in an exhibition here put on by an organization called Art Next. It featured work by Hong Kong artists which had been made exclusively during covid. The show was scheduled to open and all of the work was hung only to have the government put restrictions of social distancing in place which prevented anyone from attending the show. The people that run Art Next quickly came up with the idea to do a virtual exhibition which, of course, is in a way becoming the standard way to show art now. At the time they were the first ones to try this out in Hong Kong. Fortunately toward the end of the show we were able to gather in small groups at the exhibition to view the art”.
Ari Gold has won dozens of prizes for his films, including the Student Oscar, best film at SXSW twice, Best Director at the American Cinematheque / ARPA, and many more. His films “The Song of Sway Lake” and “Adventures of Power” have screened at Sundance, Karlovy-Vary, Rio, and hundreds of other festivals. His most unusual distinctions include winning High Times Magazine’s “Stoner of the Year” aw
Why did you join Human Hotel?
“It started with wanting to meet other artists and also perhaps donate my space to traveling environmental activists!
Indeed, then Covid happened. What impact do you think it has had on human connectivity?
“I truly hope that the intimacy that has developed through online communication, in some special cases, remains as people return to mania and cars. I wish everyone just rode bicycles“.
‘HELICOPTER’, Ari’s award-winning, heartbreaking short film reflecting on the aftermath of his mother’s death. Media: Ari Gold
What made you want to be part of TELEPHONE?
“I was traveling, showing my films in Eastern Europe, for six months last year, and I discovered wonderful people hungry for new art, and also my own grandparents’ lost villages, which gave me a sense of ancestral history and forgotten community.
When I returned in Los Angeles, I felt immediately adrift, but was fortunate to find a community of people who wrote and read poems together. The idea of prompting a poem from a few scraps of words, and seeing what comes out, allowed all of us to pass our editorial mind and go straight to our subconscious creation. And we shared.
The community flew in the face of what everyone says about supposedly superficial Los Angeles – people really listened to each other, and were committed to an art form that was not going make anybody a star”.
“I thought it was incredible that artists were taking downtime to reach into their instinctive force of creation, connect with themselves, and connect with the world. I had to be a part of it.“
“When quarantine started, one poetry night was canceled, and I took a scrap that I had written in the previous session, and read it into my Instagram. Over the coming nights, when I couldn’t sleep I would write and read a poem aloud there. Pretty soon I found that these poems were an opportunity to really be present with my thoughts, and create art that didn’t require all of the challenges of filmmaking. Like playing music, it could be nearly instantaneous and alive with that feeling. And amazingly, people all over the world read them. I even had a few people in other countries tell me that they started writing poetry because of what I was doing.
When I heard about the telephone game, linking the entire world through art, I realized this was a global version of what I had been doing with my own films, and more recently with my poetry. I thought it was incredible that artists were taking downtime to reach into their instinctive force of creation, connect with themselves, and connect with the world. I had to be a part of it”.
Trailer for Ari’s feature comedy, ‘Adventures of Power’
Is there one of your films in particular that you’d like to share?
“I am super excited about my next project but I can’t talk about it, so I will mention the re-release of my all-star comedy, “Adventures of Power,” the greatest movie about air-drumming ever made. Some people actually think it’s the greatest film about anything ever made but maybe they don’t speak English very well.
But in all seriousness I am super proud of this film and I hope everyone watches it. Check out the Rush air drums in it!
The film will be raising money to support MusiCares, with online watch-parties with celebrity drummers and comedians, co-hosted by Modern Drummer. The movie is funny and weird and philosophically and politically turned-on, which hardly anybody understood when it came out but its time has come! Feel the power!
Learn more about Adventures of Power, and find streaming links on the film’s website.
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