Get The Word Out.

004Art is communication. There’s no universal definition of art as far as I can tell, but I think that’s the one absolute. Art communicates something to the viewer whether the artist intended or not. And sometimes there is no artist, but that’s called pareidolia and is an entirely different thing.

Seeing this old pay phone stand made me think of that because it’s become a target for all kinds of graffiti. It used to be a way for people to communicate. Whenever I’m with someone younger and we see an old pay phone I like to tell them, “In my day that’s what we called a cell phone.” And then they look at me funny because “cell phone” is an almost obsolete term now. They’re just phones. Anyway this pay phone stand is still being used to communicate. It’s just a different kind of communication.

In Life Is Elsewhere, Milan Kundera‘s portrait of the artist as a young man, the protagonist cuts the receivers off twenty pay phones, sticks them in a box, and mails them to an artist who’s made him angry. It’s creatively destructive, or destructively creative. He’s sending a message but making it harder for others to communicate. And while we never know for sure chances are the artist doesn’t get the message.

Some people think graffiti is destructive. I look at this old pay phone stand and just see a creative bunch of messages.

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9 Comments

  1. ray V.

    Those were the days when we walked around with a pocket full of dimes/quarters to stop and check in with your office every half hour.

    PS…Best wishes for a successful recovery.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Those were the days. I remember my father stopping to check in with his office in the middle of Disneyworld, although he could only do that at one of the pay phones. The rest of the time he was unreachable. Those were the days.
      And thank you for the best wishes. More than a year on things are looking bright.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    Thanks for all you communicated here. Wonderful messages, still ringing in my ears.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s all about communication. I’ve always loved Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, especially the way he always ends it: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” Words to live by.

      Reply
      1. Ann Koplow

        I live by those words, as best I can.

        Reply
  3. kdcol

    I still like to use “cell” and “mobile.” And you’re right, these terms have all but disappeared. It is funny how foreign the payphone is to the kids. I think they wonder how we ever survived in such an environment.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Sometimes I wonder how we survived. We take it for granted now that we can reach each other almost anywhere at any time, but there were advantages to being unreachable. This morning I was in a park that’s completely out of reach of cell towers. There’s a pay phone at the visitor’s center, but I like knowing that out there in the woods I’m on my own.

      Reply
  4. PinkNoam

    A lot of the old phone boxes in England are being turned into ATM’s which I think is fairly inventive. They’re still covered in graffiti and cards from ‘escorts’ though. So though the technology changes, graffiti at least remains a constant.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s nice that they remain in use even if their primary use has changed. I remember stepping into one in Swansea just to get out of the cold for a few minutes. I’ve also seen them for sale here in the States as collector’s items. A few blocks from my parents’ old house a guy has one in his yard. Very strange–it’s been there nearly thirty years now.

      Reply

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