(Bourgeois, et al., 81)
This artwork started with a collection of voicemails saved on a cell phone. These voicemails preserved the last messages left by my deceased mother. Captured on a hot pink Razor flip phone, they were trapped there when I decided to update my service. At the time, the technology to transfer them did not exist. As I dealt with the loss of my mother, I held onto that outdated cell phone as a sort of talisman. It housed an emotional catalogue of voicemails, and as long as I had the phone, I could play back the messages.
These voicemails were both stranded on that singular phone and preserved for my comfort. This duality was the beginning of this large-scale installation titled “Intimacies of Telephony,” wherein I canned over 75 telephones to preserve, collect and catalogue the information held within. Since much of my artwork stems from personal narrative, it was only natural that I deal with the loss of my mother though creating an artwork. In Rebecca Solnit’s book, The Faraway Nearby, she talks of the act of preservation; “where a historian’s urges meet a cook’s capacities. I wish I could put up yesterday’s sky for all posterity, could preserve a night of love, the sound of a mountain stream… line them up in jars where they might be admired in the interim and tasted again as needed” (82). For me, the canned telephones of this piece embody all the conversations I had had with my deceased mother, the saved voicemails, the images (in the case of smart phones) and the potential for those moments to be preserved in time. They hold the metaphorical possibility to be opened and heard (or viewed) again. In suspending them in oil thus, I “preserve” them to “slow down the decline of our flesh, the fading of our goods, the crumbling of our buildings, to keep out the mouth of time…” (83) This installation speaks to the human impulse to maintain memories and experiences that may otherwise vanish.
This work is also greatly influenced by my research into the history of telephone technologies, feminist communication theory, and artists whose work resonated with my own creative endeavors. Although my work begins from a place of personal narrative and preservation, it ultimately addresses more universal concepts of domesticity, gender politics and issues of communication.