"Urban Speaker" Gives Loud Public Voice To Strangers (and Foster) via Phonecall

"Urban Speaker" Gives Loud Public Voice To Strangers (and Foster) via Phonecall

Getting yelled at by your boss isn't something most people want to have happen to them. But imagine being yelled at by your boss through a public speaker system in a park filled with 50 strangers watching you. That was my reality when I visited "Urban Speaker", a public art installation temporarily in Tompkins Square Park today. 

The piece by artist Carlos J. Gomez is set up on Tompkins Square Park South (7th Street between Ave, A & B) all day until 7 pm. If you have time today I suggest you go check out this pice from the Conflux 2010 festival. Or just call up 1-(979)-997-3041 to have your voice broadcast all over the park.

Gomez started this project four years ago with no intention of ever making it into a public art piece. The idea of putting it in a public space was something that came to be after he saw how the creation worked: "I had a Nokia phone and I found a software program that allowed me to answer phone calls automatically," he told us, as we were waiting for it to turn on. "I thought it would be cool to play these calls through a speaker, just to see if I could do it. I didn't have to code anything. After showing it to a few different places, I've finally been able to get this into a public space."

As soon as the power was connected, the speaker started blasting messages from the backed-up voicemail system. "I've spent about 20 dollars on voicemail charges so far," Gomez said. Most of the messages went something like this: "Oh! Hey! I'm speaking to a whole fucking park right now! I'm from ______! Uhhh...okay...bye!" But then the voice of Runnin' Scared blogger and Intern Slave Driver Foster Kamer filled the park, and people started paying attention. People around the park stared more intently as they slowly realized he was talking to me. Or at me. It was uncomfortable, to say the least:

It seems the best messages are direct and content-filled instead of babbling.

When asked what he would say into his creation, Gomez said, "I would like to try and summarize the things I like about New York in 60 seconds. But I don't know quite what I would say because it's really hard to define." His intentions for his work of art remains clear, he wants "people to have fun with it". He added "I think it's kind of an unusual proposition to have a space to talk to you or people using telecommunications to talk to you via a space. I don't have any agenda in particular-- let's see what people make out of it."

[mtanzer@villagevoice.com]

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