These days, it is not uncommon to see a row of young people sitting next to each other, feverishly texting — and often texting each other despite the fact they are sitting RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER — rather than having (risking?) a conversation. Adults are starting to do the same. Slowly but surely, it seems that texting is replacing conversation– or at least changing the nature of conversation.
In response to the growing trend to communicate through devices rather than personal communication, Boston-based conceptual artist Rachel Perry Welty and I have created a performance piece that we will debut tonight at “con(Text),” an art exhibition curated by Tim Donovan opening here in New Hampshire. Here’s the plan: during the two-hour opening, Rachel and I will sit next to each other on a bench and text each other. We will not talk to each other or to any guests. Our name tags will say “Hello My Name Is” and instead of our names, we will write our cell phone numbers. And while I rarely use bad language in any of my work, I felt completely comfortable with our title: WTF.
We haven’t even performed the piece and people are already excited because it resonates. Our artist statement reads:
I can’t wait for the reaction. And I also can’t wait to see how many guests join in the texting once “permission” is given to text at what should be a social event filled with conversation. Not that anyone looks for permission any more.
We are not the only ones to explore our cultural addiction to phones. Here is a brilliant short film (2 minutes) by filmmaker Charlene deGuzman. A MUST WATCH.
And if you need any more convincing that our devices are taking over, check out this TED Talk by Sherry Turkle, a professor in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, and author of the book Alone, Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. Run time is 19 minutes and worth every minute.
And while this evening Rachel and I will be using our hands to text, we will also be exhibiting our visual work that includes text — the focus of the show. A glimpse of our work for those of you who can’t come to the exhibition.
See more of my artwork here. And if you can, join me in putting down those cell phones and having a conversation. Who knows what we may discover?
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