Can You Hear Me?, 2004
Site-specific installation, The Sunshine Hotel, New York, NY
Commissioned by The New Museum of Contemporary Art
PVC pipe, mirror, wood, existing architecture and public phone, metal sign, participants
39 x 10 x 15 feet
Can You Hear Me? is a site-specific interactive sculpture installed on the exterior of the building that houses The Sunshine Hotel, one of the last remaining flop houses (Single Residence Occupancy) on the Bowery. The piece was created for Counter Culture, a show that the New Museum of Contemporary Art organized to inaugurate their new neighborhood. The parking lot next door to the hotel is the future site of the museum. I sited my piece at the Sunshine to explore the complicated social dynamics of the situation and perhaps create an opportunity for a person-to-person connection within an uncanny context.
The sculpture is a functional alternative "telephone". It uses PVC pipe and mirrors to make an aural and visual communication link from the second floor lobby of the Sunshine Hotel, to the street below. Passers-by on the street can call up through the tube and be heard in the Sunshine's communal lobby area. If a resident chooses to answer the call and engage in a conversation through the tube, the sculpture offers a space to have a face to face conversation over a distance of 36 feet. The natural acoustics of the PVC pipe amplify and carry the sound of each person's voice, creating an aural proximity. At the same time, a periscopic mirror system in the tubes carries the image of the person's face you are speaking to, but it appears very small and upside-down, visually emphasizing the distance between the two conversants.