“Pass it on” takes on a whole new meaning in the hands of artists

The wonders of the Internet never cease. Inspired by the children’s game Telephone, curator Nathan Langston has used the web to link together 315 artists around the world in a unique and enduring fashion in an online gallery that’s just debuted and is sure to lure you in for hours on end.

In Telephone, players whisper one message down a chain of people to see how it morphs and ultimately gets interpreted. In this case, Langston thought to play the game with artists. His secret message? A Breton fisherman’s prayer: “Oh God, thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small.” The first artist to be given the message interpreted it like this:

The New York based artist Jana Weaver went first
The New York based artist Jana Weaver went first

The painting gave way to a poem and that gave way to a photograph, and on and on. For five years now, artistic interpretations riffing off the previous artistic interpretation have been digitally transmitted to Langston in New York from all around the world. For the first time, just this week, all the artists involved can see their interlocking works and the secret message that started it all.

One of the artists, LA-based Sean Miller, composed a song based on a painting he was assigned by Derrick Breidenthal of Kansas City that looked like this:

Kansas City artist Derek Breidenthal's painting for Telephone
Kansas City artist Derrick Breidenthal’s painting for Telephone

In turn, Sean Miller’s song inspired this:

North Dakota's Ali Buelow contributed this after hearing Sean Miller's music
North Dakota’s Ali Buelow contributed this after hearing Sean Miller’s music

“The great thing about this project,” Miller said, “is that it’s so expansive, but it’s also a very personalized approach to interpreting a work of art. It can be very hard to create art in a vacuum. This gives you a road map, of sorts, that you can take your own language. Everyone talks about how disconnected we can get in the Internet age, and as an artist it can feel pretty disconnecting, particularly in a city like LA, where commercial commodification becomes a very important thing.”

These are messages that should be shouted, not whispered, and passed at every opportunity. Telephone helps to do that.

Open 24-7, Telephone is online at http://telephone.satellitecollective.org