Satellite Collective Online Exhibition of Worldwide Game of TELEPHONE featuring Nearly 1,000 Artists
April 10, 2021
More than 950 artists from 70 countries played a game of TELEPHONE, in which a message was passed from art form to art form. The message could become a poem, then a painting, then a film, then a dance, as it was passed 7,177,703 kilometers between 489 cities. An interactive, online exhibition of these hundreds of original, interconnected works will debut to the public for free on Saturday, April 10, 2021 at 9am EST at https://phonebook.gallery/. This particular game of TELEPHONE was started on March 23, 2020 and will be available after running for 383 days.
Only a handful of staff members know the original message of TELEPHONE. The participating artists are only aware of the work that directly preceded their own, and do not know how their own work was translated or further translated in subsequent. When TELEPHONE becomes publicly available, it will be the first time that any of the artists get to see the exhibition in full. Satellite Collective (https://satellitecollective.org) incubated the first generation of Telephone with Nathan Langston, and partners now with TELEPHONE as a select group of artists from the game join the Satellite Collective Fellows.
“It’s amazing to come full circle,” said Kevin Draper, Artistic Director, Satellite Collective. “Nathan launched the first Telephone game as a Satellite Program, working directly with us. TELEPHONE is one of our most successful incubations, and now we partner with them in an unexpected way: the Winter 2021 Satellite Fellows cohort, we’re proud to say, was drawn from the TELEPHONE game.”
Participants in TELEPHONE were primarily recruited by word-of-mouth, as well via various international message boards. Approximately 60% are based in the United States and approximately 65% are women. In terms of career, players range from Guggenheim Fellows to newly emerging artists, from high school students and elderly artists just developing their practices to Academy Award and Pulitzer Prize winners. It’s possible to consider TELEPHONE as a presentation of nearly 1,000 individual and original works of art. It’s equally valid to view this exhibition as a single work of art by people from across the Earth. Regardless, the result is the largest data set of ekphrastic artistic exchange in history. Ekphrasis is the process of translation of one art form into another. This helps us better understand each art form, the neurological processes at work in translation, and how information is passed from person to person. The second half of the game employs synthesis, allowing us to study how artists combine multiple influences simultaneously.
Unlike the children’s game (known elsewhere as Dengon, Teléfono Descompuesto, Operator, Głuchy Telefon, Stille Post, Telefon Shavur, and countless other names across the world), this TELEPHONE message was not whispered in a straight line. Each finished work was assigned to two or three other artists, so the game branched out exponentially like a family tree. Halfway through, the process was reversed, meaning that the game contracted exponentially so that TELEPHONE, which began with a single message, will be passed through almost 1,000 artists, and conclude with a single work of art.
This game was first played and published at a smaller scale in 2015 and launched in New York by Nathan Langston and Satellite Collective. As the pandemic began to worsen in the United States in March 2020, the time was right to pick it up again, with a new team in the Pacific Northwest.
TELEPHONE requires no physical contact and intimately connects individuals in isolation. The project directly engaged with artists in hard-hit countries as the global crisis unfolded and, for decades to come, this exhibition will remain a poignant time capsule of what we have endured and overcome.
Satellite Collective under Kevin Draper has focused on a select group of TELEPHONE artists, launching these Spring 2021 Fellows with the opening of Telephone this April. The Satellite Fellows program will expand from NYC to a national footprint in 2021.
The user interface of the online exhibition has been composed by professional UX designers and constructed by a talented engineering and development group. Visitors to TELEPHONE will be able to explore each work of art, from the original message to the final work, and then start over, choosing another of the hundreds of contiguous pathways through the exhibition. Each visitor will be supplied with a geographic map, as well as a game map to help them navigate through the structure of the game. The exhibition platform, designed and built from scratch, will seamlessly integrate more than 10,000 artist files.
The ten-member team behind the exhibition, most of whom have never met in person, are drawn from tech companies like Google, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Dropbox, and various academic institutions. By the end of the year-long project, it is expected that 10,000 hours will have gone into curating and presenting this exhibition and all of the staff are working for free. TELEPHONE will not generate revenue or profit and the entire cost of the project is $150.
ABOUT THE TEAM
Katelyn Watkins is a writer, consultant, and project manager. She currently enjoys contributing to TELEPHONE as the Director of Operations. She has dual degrees in English and Feminist Studies with minors in Film and Philosophy from Southwestern University, as well as a masters distinction in Finance, Marketing, and Business from the Wharton School. In her spare time, she enjoys thread art, traveling, cooking, taking naps, and watching way too many movies. She was born in Lubbock, Texas to a ranching and rodeo family but now splits her time between Austin, Texas, and Worthing, Barbados. She is currently working on her first collection of short stories.
Matt Diehl is a software engineer and designer at Google, currently living in Jersey City. Before he lost his punk rock cred, he played guitar in a ukelele punk band, Paul Newman and the Ride Home. He has a lovely wife and dog who give him all the attention he needs during pandemics.
Ben Sarsgard is a software engineer in Baltimore and/or New York. He’s cat dad to two beautiful girls, Josephine and Shadow, who he’d rather be talking to right now. He can often be found running in circles over and over again to train himself to be able to run in other circles over and over again, slightly faster. Ben enjoys coffee and red wine, but not mixed together.
Kelly Jones is currently living in the Piedmont of NC with their spouse and their 11 year old pit bull (Mr. Beaux Jangles). Kelly embraces all things glittery, loves manatees, and doesn’t understand infinity. Lately they’ve been stress-baking, attempting to keep the houseplants alive, caring for a clowder of semi-stray cats, and daydreaming about summery things. They’ve got an MFA in Poetry and a Masters in Library and Information Studies, but no job. In the before times, they managed the Outreach & Education Department of a creative reuse non-profit. Sometimes they miss being a “trash art queen,” but mostly they’re glad to not be interacting with tons of people all the time.
Ramon M. Rodriguez is a UX/UI/Visual designer at HCL Technologies, currently living in the cozy neighborhood of Greenwood, a short 10 minute drive from downtown Seattle. Ramon and his wife Patty have two stubborn Pekingese dog’s Sonic and Pepper.
Jennifer Spriggs is a designer living in Seattle. She often escapes to the mountains and islands on her bike and wishes she lived in the forest.
Sergio Rodriguez is a Graphic Designer that moved from Arizona to Seattle in 2012. He’s enjoys riding his track bikes around all the steep hills in Seattle. He has a wonderful girlfriend and a beautiful little half Chihuahua half Boston terrier mix pup. Recently he has been wanting to make a career change to UX design and was brought onto the TELEPHONE game by his good buddy Ramon. Since being a part of TELEPHONE he has learned so much and enjoys being a part of an amazing team and is inspired by all the of amazing artists that are involved.
Madeline Hoak is an artist and academic who creates with, through and about circus. She is an Adjunct Professor of Aerial Arts at Pace University (NYC), an Associate Editor for Circus Talk, and a graduate student at New York University where she is designing a degree in Circus Studies with a focus on spectatorship. Madeline initiated the Aerial Acrobatics program at Muhlenberg College where she taught from 2012 – 2017, and is a regular contributor to Circus Syd’s Circus Thinkers international reading group. Recent publications include “Teaching the Mind-Body: Integrating Knowledges through Circus Arts” (with Alisan Funk, Dan Berkley), a chapter in Art as an Agent for Social Change (2020), and “expanding in(finite) between,” a multimedia essay in Circus Thinkers: Reflections, 2020. Madeline is honored to be the Editor of TELEPHONE’s critical essays. madelinehoak.com.
Sean Tomas Redmond is an artist living in Austin, Texas. He has played in a wide variety of musical projects in Chicago, Austin, and Japan. Recently he has performed shows with artists including Mark Renner, Sean McCann, Sarah Davachi, and Future Museums. He is a designer, an amateur painter and photographer, and the former editor-in-chief of the arts publication fields magazine. You can listen to his music at seantomas.bandcamp.com.
Nathan Langston is a poet and musician, who founded Satellite Collective together with Kevin Draper in New York. He created and led the first game of TELEPHONE with Satellite, which was begun in 2010 and published in 2015. He has toured with bands to almost all the states and works as a software designer. Nathan is a graduate of the University of Oregon, with a focus in literature and poetry, and lives in Seattle with his two boys.
Kevin Draper is an artist and writer, who founded Satellite Collective together with Nathan Langston. He leads the organization as Artistic Director. Kevin has worked with major corporations to advise on corporate strategy and led Satellite Collective to a unique position in the arts, one that is collective in structure, but able to incubate and spin off programs successfully in the arts. Conceived by Nathan Langston in 2010, the first game of TELEPHONE, published in 2015 as an online exhibition, was an incubated project within Satellite Collective, a New York-based non-profit committed to originating and supporting interdisciplinary works of art. TELEPHONE draws inspiration from Das Glasperlenspiel by Hermann Hesse, the Black Mountain College, Bauhaus, the Fluxus movement, the Cadavre Exquis games played by the Surrealists as early as 1918. But the game structure can be traced back to at least 1827, known then as a European parlor game called Consequences, though it’s almost certainly older than partly because the rules are so simple that there’s little need to write them down and to leave a paper record. Today, TELEPHONE is known in almost every country on Earth and has a multitude of names. To learn more about Artistic Director Kevin Draper, visit www.kevindraper.org.
ABOUT SATELLITE COLLECTIVE
In a few short years, Satellite Collective has fearlessly styled multiple seasons of dance, music, film and word to their vision. Under the leadership of Kevin Draper, Satellite has launched young choreographers, composers, film makers, poets and artists with an uncanny sense of timing, tapping into an intense scene of NYC artists from New York City Ballet, Juilliard, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Bowery Poetry Club. Satellite has bridged a global network of artists working in every medium from video games to installation and has fused pop music from members of The Lumineers, San Fermin and the song writing scenes in the Pacific Northwest into arresting short film and stage work. Always, with a stylish and confident manner, always with a vision. Satellite believes in artists collaborating as equals, globally and virtually. They incubate performances, arts exchanges, and publications that allow artists to work together, because they believe that is the future. Founded in 2010, Satellite Collective has produced three evening-length ballets, four hours of original music, and two hours of original film, commissioned eight modern dance works, founded the arts publication Transmission, hosted five annual arts retreats, and launched both Telephone, which simultaneously published the interconnected works of 315 artists from 42 countries, and Satellite Press, a small independent press publishing emerging and established authors and poets. Satellite is proud to have received support from BAM, Jerome Robbins Foundation, Frey Foundation, Nestle, SAP, 92Y, DeVos Institute of Arts Management, Brooklyn Arts Council and many others government, public and private supporters. Satellite is a graduate of the 2015-16 BAM Professional Development Program in collaboration with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. To learn more about Satellite, visit: www.satellitecollective.org