Ring Ring! Tel-Talk!

Words by Leo Graziani

Cell phones are everywhere, and like many of us, I honestly can’t imagine not having mine. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon, and I’m cool with it. I rather like having a mini-computer in my pocket and I’m even dreaming of the next phone I’ll get, early next year. I embrace the future.


Booths at King and Yonge. Photo by Liis Toliao.

I remember the days when you could make a local phone call for a quarter. When you needed a calling card if you wanted to make a long-distance call and didn’t want to keep feeding the phone. When you felt… well… a little freer, a little less attached.

I don’t know that the good people behind Tel-Talk share this precise feeling, but they seem to be on the right track. What’s Tel-Talk, you say? It’s an art exhibition about Ye Olde Public Telephone Booth. More cell phones mean less phone booths, and anyone old enough to remember the ubiquitous presence of booths in the city has surely noticed by now how few of them are left. Where do you find a phone booth these days? Gas stations, sure. Bus stops, probably. Any area thick with pedestrian traffic.

Fun Booth (at Lambertlodge and Christie). Photo by Brian Anderson.

Created by Liis Toliao, Yvonne Koscielak and Paola Poletto, Tel-Talk brings together artists of varying backgrounds to create site-specific art installations as both a tribute to the booth itself, and also to comment on how the shift away from public space has affected us and the way we perceive our rights to communication. Artists were asked to consider things such as form and function, medium and message, and so on. This project has been going on largely in Toronto, but there are also installations in Hamilton, London, Winnipeg and Vernon, BC.

The installations were announced on the Tel-Talk blog as they were completed over a nine-month period. Some of the booths are functional, some aren’t, and some need to be functional in order for the artist’s vision to come through (e.g., you have to make a phone call to properly experience that particular artistic installation). Take a look at We Need to Talk to see what I mean.*

Flagpole (at Wellington and Jarvis). Photo by Stuart Keeler.

Stuart Keeler, curator of the Art Gallery of Mississauga, has also created an installation. His booth features a flagpole on top, and he invited people to create their own flags and send them in to be installed on the booth. It changed every so often—one of those flags simply said “Applause.” People would stop by, consider the sign, applaud to themselves and walk away smiling from a little mid-afternoon whimsy.

The project culminates in an exhibition at the Telephone Booth Gallery, located in The Junction at 3148 Dundas St. W. But it closes tomorrow, so if you want to see these unique and interesting works of art, you need get down there as soon as you can.

So where are these booths? Many of them are still up—though there’s been some theft and even some considerable vandalism, but that’s to be expected in public art—which means that one way to find them is to simply walk the city. Explore and stumble onto them! But the easier way is to go to the gallery and find out where they are. And of course, you can also check out the blog.

This is it for Tel-Talk, but the work lives on in the form of a book, documenting the entire effort. Tel-Talk is available at the gallery and at the publisher’s website, www.tightropebooks.com.

Do yourself a favour and check it out.

(More photos below.)


*Incidentally, one of those booths wasn’t working. Intentional? Accidental? Who knows?

We Need to Talk. Photo by Anthea Foyer and Rob King.

Clark Kent into Superman (at Dundas and Bloor). Photo by Jesse Boles. (The paintings have long since been stolen.)

Transformation Booth (at Spadina and College). Photo by TIMEANDDESIRE.

Pop-Up Memory Shop (in London). Photo by Charity Miskelly.

Landsdowne Lightbox (at Landsdowne and Dupont). Photo by Dyan Marie.

One Response to Ring Ring! Tel-Talk!

  1. tboothgallery Reply

    July 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    View the TEL-Talk Gallery exhibition online – http://www.telephoneboothgallery.ca/tel-talk.html

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