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The Globe and Mail

Artists to give telephone booths across Toronto a facelift

A phone-booth art installation by Sheila Butler at Bloor St. and Dundas St. W., in Toronto.

Nothing says "end of an era" quite like the lowly phone booth – resonant of forgotten technologies, extinct social patterns, and an egalitarian time when telecommunications were easily accessible to anyone with pocket change.

As spearheaded by multidisciplinary artists and curators Liis Toliao, Paola Poletto and Yvonne Koscielak (with co-operation, perhaps inevitably, by Telephone Booth Gallery director Sharlene Rankin), Tel-Talk, a series of interventions by more than two dozen artists, will be unofficially occupyingwobbly old telephone booths across Toronto until late summer.

There's a blog, of course, wherein you can follow the happy, or otherwise, fates of these projects, plus the thoughts of the artists involved.

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Poletto explains the project simply. "The beauty of it is that it happens over a long time, and it's a process, not a show. I didn't anticipate some of the nuances that have emerged from specific installations, such as the fear of putting art in public spaces.

"The artists participating have a whole array of emotions – but once they experience the generous reaction from the public, a lot of anxieties melt away. I understood that we were creating an homage to the telephone booth, but how the artists have reacted to these exchanges with the public have been the biggest surprise for me."

And for Rankin, the fit between Tel-Talk and her own gallery space is more than good marketing. "I was really interested in doing something different with the gallery. Tel-Talk is a large community project, and more conceptual and performative than my gallery shows. It's a way for me to ease into this sort of work, which I want to add to the gallery. And, it's a bit of a risk, using the galleries' resources [there will be a show of related works and documents in June] without knowing what the artists would contribute. But why not take a risk?"

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