Your Attention Please! Ignore this Message

Exhibited as part of Break It! Build It!
Burlington City Arts Gallery, July 25, 2014 – September 13, 2014

This installation is inspired by an earlier work, The Firehouse Bell Project

Despite major shifts in technology, bells continue to serve as cultural signifiers in the public square. A bell like the one atop this firehouse remains part of the built environment even though it no longer rings. Next door at City Hall a bell recording plays on the hour through an amplifier, no physical bell required. Scattered cell phone “bell” alerts dot the city soundscape ringing from pockets, bags and café tables.

Within the lifetime of current Burlington residents, civic bells like the Firehouse Bell communicated singular messages that found meaning in community, time and place.
By contrast in 2014 bells and alerts from personalized media sustain a persistent sonic layer of anytime–anyplace messages. While these messages are not meant for us they demand our attention.

Your Attention Please! Ignore this Message explores the cultural shift from public bells to private bells through Malcolm McCullough’s definition of the Ambient Commons. It is a reflection on how (and perhaps increasingly so) our sensory field comes from and refers to someplace else.

Installation:

Ubiquitous cell phone alerts that reference bells were amplified in the gallery through ceiling speakers. Private alerts based on an individual’s schedule were played publicly. The installation Your Attention Please! Ignore this Message brings attention to the continued sounding of bells in the public square, despite major shifts in what we consider public and private and the blurring lines between the common digital and physical spaces we share.

Listen to samples of cell phone bells: