com-mun-i-cate” is an artificially created environment wired for subverted communication. The audience is invited to participate, but in this environment, the phones do not behave the way we expect them to, nor are we able to use them the way we are used to using them.

Instead of being able to use the phone for personal expression or to communicate our own messages, the phones are pushing a message at us, forcing us to ‘listen’ to the phones’ expression.

At the time that this piece was produced, the concepts of “permission” and “viral” marketing were just emerging. Debate raged over whether permission marketing was a viable alternative to the invasion of privacy issues many people felt about ‘spam’ marketing. The legitimacy of viral marketing was dubious as many people saw it as validating deception.

Heavily influenced by Marshall McLuhan’s theories of the ‘medium is the message’ and ‘hot v’s cold media’ and drawing on the notions of ‘push v’s pull’ media, I wanted to explore what would happen if a typically cool medium were inverted and made hot. How would reversing the intended use of a communication device make people feel? What would happen if a technology medium gained sentience?

Forest by day
Forest by day

Each phone transmits a low quality, looped sound recording, deliberately designed to sound like transient, whispered messages. The initial impression is one of accidental voyeurism into a crossed-line conversation. But the phones continue to whisper their subliminal message in an attempt to infiltrate out consciousness and perhaps influence our thoughts.

The phones are located within an artificial ‘forest’ made of technology – large plastic tubing ‘trees’, a ‘canopy’ of cable wiring, technological ‘growths’ and piles of gutted televisions spawning ‘fungus’ (in the form of empty ‘cans of worms’) littering the ‘forest floor’.

com-mun-i-cate” was created in collaboration with my computer programmer husband, Adam Pierce.

Forest by night
Forest by night
Adam the sound engineer
Adam the sound engineer
Testing the soundscape
Testing the soundscape

com-mun-i-cate” installation piece created for the Summer Dreaming Festival, Peats Ridge, January 2001, and installed again at Loveseat: Exotic Erotica, Surry Hills, March 2001.

Materials used (with thanks to Reverse Garbage, Marrickville):

  • PVC piping
  • Old Telecom handsets
  • Network wiring
  • PC and ‘switchboard’ control panel
  • Communication symbols & devices
  • Televisions
  • Empty cans of worms
  • Sound recordings include:
    • radio plays
    • lectures
    • advertising jingles
    • random conversations
    • experimental soundscapes
    • snippets from TV shows
    • evangelical speeches

Electronics and programming by Adam Pierce

All artworks are self-funded and created on a shoestring budget