The Art Guys®
"Idle Chatter"

Idle Chatter
is an audio sculpture that invites students and from all over Vanderbilt campus, and audiences from all over the world, to participate.

Space 204
Vanderbilt University Department of Art

Exhibition and project dates: Tuesday, March 22-April 5, 2011
Exhibition opening and reception: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 4-6 pm


Click on the image to watch the video

Participants are invited to call a prescribed number - 615-343-7000 - at anytime and from anywhere.   This telephone number, provided by the university, connects callers to an extension inside Space 204 in the E. Bronson Ingram Studio Art Center of the Vanderbilt Art Department.   When connected, the voices and sounds of these callers are broadcast live throughout the gallery space.   Callers may say or do anything they wish.   They are in control, they are the exhibition, this is their soapbox.

Idle Chatter addresses and plays with the phenomenon of the ubiquity of telephones in everyday life.   The materials of this sculptural arrangement are the ephemeral voices and sounds of the callers which are transmitted from remote locations to the exhibition space.   The intention is not to create a dialog.   The devices in the gallery space will not be formatted to be used by gallery visitors.   Nor is the purpose of Idle Chatter to demonstrate the sophistication of any technology.   Rather, it is to create a simple social sculpture, an electronic soapbox, a situation in which the art is shaped and determined by audience members themselves using everyday materials and techniques.

Idle Chatter
is sponsored by The Vanderbilt University Department of Art in association with The Office of Arts and Creative Engagement

Special thanks to Gary Somberg of Vitel
Phyllis Gray, Communication Analyst, Vanderbilt University Information Technology

Watch the video

History/background, precedents

Idle Chatter is an extension of The Art Guys' investigations of audience participation media works that date to the beginnings of their collaboration.   For example, in 1992 The Art Guys presented a fax machine piece called Fax of Life at The Art Guys World Headquarters. Fax of Life was a one-night event wherein participants - anyone from anywhere - could call The Art Guys studio number between prescribed hours during which they were connected to a fax machine.   Participants were invited to send whatever they wished via facsimile.   The faxes were installed in the exhibition space as they were received thus making the show.   More than 100 faxes from all over the world were received for Just the Fax .

Later, The Art Guys proposed Watch What You Say for their 1995 retrospective at the Contemporary Arts Museum.   Watch What You Say proposed to tap the phone lines of the staff of the CAMH and install corresponding telephones in the gallery space so that visitors could listen in on the private conversations of the CAMH staff.   This proposal was rejected and has yet to be realized.

More recently, in 2011, The Art Guys presented Phone at Texas Women's University in Denton, Texas as part of the exhibition "FREERIDING."   Phone involved simply placing a cell phone on a sculpture stand in the exhibition space with no instructions.   Audiences decided for themselves how or if to use the cell phone.   Meanwhile, audiences from remote locations could call the cell phone at any time.   More than 500 documented incoming calls were received during the course of the one month exhibition.

Idle Chatter continues The Art Guys' experiments with open-ended audience situation pieces using telephone technology.

“We were invited to create a project at Vanderbilt that would be public in nature. We wanted to create a situation that would involve as many people as possible, but we also wanted to do something that would not impose ourselves into the work. In other words, we wanted to create a situation that would be open, flexible and changing in its structure.
The logistical challenge was to engage the entire Vanderbilt campus while simultaneously formatting something for the Space 204 gallery in the Art Department. We wanted to try to draw audiences to that location because we're excited about what is going on in the Vanderbilt Department of Art and we want people to see for themselves.   We think Idle Chatter is the perfect solution for these goals."

- The Art Guys

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