New York Times: ‘Telephone: An International Arts Experiment’ by Nathan Langston

Nathan Langston New York Times Satellite Collective Telephone Game

Dina Litovsky for The New York Times


APRIL 16, 2015

Sometime last winter, Terri St.Arnauld and Frank Yezer, photographers in Austin, Tex., and Maya Ciarrocchi, a video artist in New York, each received an email that contained a song. The tune was by Stelth Ulvang, a musician from Denver, whom they had never met. In a spare recording, on banjo and accordion, Mr. Ulvang sang of a forlorn man and a landscape of smoke and clouds.

All three recipients got down to work, poring over the lyrics, “trying to understand what the artist was conveying,” Ms. St.Arnauld said. Their goal was to make something inspired by the song, and to connect in a mysterious creative experiment.

Ms. Ciarrocchi responded with a video that juxtaposed windswept footage of water, tree and fire. Ms. St.Arnauld and Mr. Yezer, a married team, made a pinhole-camera photo of a solitary man in the charred remains of a Texas forest.

This chain-linked work is part of a new project that is rooted in the very old children’s game Telephone (also called Operator or Grapevine). The artistic version, for adults, was conceived by Nathan Langston, a Brooklyn poet and composer. He scribbled out the first message and gave it to a friend, who made a painting from it, which Mr. Langston then took to a poet, who wrote a verse based on the painting.

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