This game works almost exactly like the kids’ game “telephone,” also known as operator, ear-to-ear, and many other names the world over. One player devises a message, and that message is whispered to the next person, who whispers it to the next and the next. The message evolves as it travels, surprising and confounding the players.
Rather than simply passing our message from person to person via language alone, Satellite Collective is passing it from art form to art form. A message in music might become a poem, which might become a film, and then a dance work, and so on. The process begins with a very specific message we’re “whispering” from artist to artist, but each participant will have access only to the work directly preceding his own. None of the players will know the full evolution of the message until the end. As in the original game, the progression is a secret.
The threads will also branch out: A single painting may be assigned to two or three other artists. When we publish the final succession of works on Transmission, the viewer will be able to follow one thread to the end, go back to the beginning and choose a different route through the series of art works.
The point of the game
Satellite Collective is committed to exploring the mechanics of artistic collaboration and the relationships between various forms. Every art form has its own vocabulary and its own techniques for conveying information. We’re interested in how the language of one form is translated into the vernacular of another.
This isn’t new. A filmmaker sees a painting and figures out an innovative way to frame a shot. A painter has a stereo on in her studio, and a sudden stab of violin inspires an impulsive slash of paint. A musician sits in the audience at a play and, at the climax of drama, a song comes leaping and wailing into the mind. This is normal, natural, common. When it happens with great frequency, it is called a zeitgeist. When it happens with intention, it called a movement.
At Satellite, we’re just hoping to have a closer look at the inner mechanics of this ubiquitous transference. We’re doing so by formalizing the process of exchange a little, by turning it into a game. We’re hoping the resulting chain of original works will be exciting and illuminating. We also think this game could be very, very fun.
What we need to play
We need lots of good artists. We need lots of good artists who are committed to the idea of this project, ready to work fairly quickly, and willing to try to honestly translate a work assigned to them into their own art form. That last trait is the most important. It’s vital to the game that every participant understands that we’re passing a specific message and that the artist does his or her best to use the work to express the information. Most likely, it will lead to creating a work that each artist wouldn’t naturally come up with on his or her own.
Why you should play
We hope to provide good exposure to the works of participating artists. You’ll be playing with artistic compatriots on both sides of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. By partnering with Wooloo.org, Satellite Collective will be soliciting work from a pool of more than 28,000 artists in 140 countries. If you submit work, it could be interpreted by someone down the street or someone on a different continent.
Aside from the online exhibition of these pieces, we also expect to host several physical gallery shows, highlighting selected threads of works in the United States and Europe.
How to play
It’s easy! If you’re interested, please submit a work sample to Nathan@satellite-collective.org. If you’re selected, we will be in touch regarding when a work will be assigned to you. Once we assign you a work to interpret, you will have a deadline to return your interpretation. For works of music, choreography, and visual works including film, the deadline is one month. For works of poetry and literature, the deadline is two weeks. The duration of the Telephone is expected to last one year and, we hope that each of the various threads consists of at least 12 original works.
In order to participate, you’ll need to sign a release form that gives us the right to publish your work within the confines ofTransmission, the online arts journal of Satellite Collective. It also protects you: It says that you retain the rights to your own artwork; if you submit a work for Telephone, you retain the visual rights, the digital rights, and the physical rights to what you made.
This is an experiment, but if it works—and we think it will—this project could be very beautiful, meaningful, and fascinating. The connectivity of the Internet finally allows for something as simple and ambitious as playing a children’s game across the globe with our like-minded artistic compatriots. How fun!
It’s also a reminder that what we do as artists affects the work of other artists, whether we know it or not. By playing Telephone, your work will be like a message in a bottle, and a message in a bottle always contains hope.
With the highest of hopes,