Radio, telephone and computers have been called ‘psychotechnologies’: technological extensions of the mind, with global implications. We are interested in how communications technologies shape the relationship of space and time. In Local 411, we use the public phone to invigorate the historical landscape of the city in search of contemporary public art. The phone is physical: it creates an intimate space that unites people over distance, and even across time. Local 411 is a project created to address the Yerba Buena Redevelopment Zone, in San Francisco. Here, 4000 former
residents of residential hotels have been displaced to make room for what has been called the “jewel in the crown that is San Francisco.”
Groundskeepers continually clean the large grassy area; waste is quickly swept up before it can settle. Surrounding the park are the Center for the Arts Galleries and Theater, the Museum of Modern Art, the George Moscone Convention Center and a Marriott hotel. More museums are planned for the area. Many non-profit arts organizations have relocated to the area to take advantage of the consolidation of cultural institutions. Gone are The Rock Hotel, The Rex and many others. All traces of the former use of the area have been erased. Escalating housing costs have forced the mostly retired former inhabitants into adjoining counties of the Bay Area. Replacement housing, although promised, was never built. We used the public telephones located around the Yerba Buena Garden, inside the Museum of Modern Art, inside the Moscone Convention Center and inside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
We developed three strategies in multiple languages to relocate memories into the Yerba Buena Redevelopment Zone: short fictional vignettes based on research and interviews with the area’s former residents, added to a message pool in a custom voicemail system; the recording of memories/impressions from listener/participants, also added to and accessible through the voicemail message pool (so the story grew throughout the installation); and collaboration with performers: we provided them with research about the area and they created characters and engaged, live, with passers-by in one-on-one performances.
Media: private and public phones, signage, brochures, soundmix, voicemail system on computer, live performance
Location: Yerba Buena Redevelopment Zone, San Francisco, CA