Thursday, July 23, 2009

Every Object Getting a Voice

My piece on "Ambient Awareness" talks about how "our technologies are empowering physical locations to tell their stories." I cited examples such as "cellphone-guided neighborhood tours and local living histories are being developed in many communities, one New York artist has recruited his neighbors to record stories about the love life in their building; another uses stickers with text-messaging numbers to alert passer-bys that something of interest lies nearby."

Ian Frazier in the July 26th issues of The New Yorker tells the story of artist Katie Holten's "Tree Museum":
The Tree Museum-goer calls the number on a cell phone, punches in the tree’s extension, and hears a recording about the tree, or the neighborhood, or the Concourse, or the Bronx, or some larger concept like global warming. A visual artist named Katie Holten came up with the idea. Writer describes the experience of a Tree Museum-goer, noting several of the trees’ recordings and surroundings. Tree No. 1 is a London plane at East 138th Street. Dial the number and a poet named E. J. McAdams recites a haiku he has written about the grove. Tree No. 17, near 150th Street, is the stump of an elm that was cut down last year. Its recording is of Jon Pywell, a forester with the Department of Parks and Recreation. Tree No. 23 is a Callery pear at 162nd Street, across the Concourse from a large, two-towered brick building. The recording says that used to be the Concourse Plaza Hotel, where Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Whitey Ford lived sometimes. And at Tree No. 100, a cottonwood beside Mosholu Parkway, the recording tells how neighborhood activists saved this tree from destruction and created the little park around it.

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