Before cell phones proliferated in the pockets of kids still in their single-digits, do you remember having to rely on the existence of a pay phone when coordinating a ride, lost in an unfamiliar part of town, or meeting up with a friend?
(Also, did you ever envision the germs that were multiplying and mutating on those buttons and mouthpieces, or was that just me?)
And then, can you recall the surprising jolt of excitement you felt when an unattended pay phone began to ring?
Whatever end of the spectrum your association with the public telephone falls on, the memory — so closely tied to an extinct way of life — is bound to conjure up some sort of nostalgia.
Bridget Quinn, who goes so far as to call pay phones "relics of public communication," cooked up the Pay Phone Revival Project as a temporary public art program that would transform abandoned pay phones and spaces into thoughtful installations.
"Like frames with no pictures within them, [pay phones] present a unique opportunity for artistic intervention," she says wistfully.
As a part of contemporary arts festival Fusebox, whose mission it is to explore and blur boundaries, the Pay Phone Revival Project attracted artists hungry for opportunities to experiment and work in new contexts.
Some pay phone installations are forward-looking, like Sol Design Lab's solar charging station; others long for the past, like Carla Novi's piece at Spin N Kleen. Regardless of whichever way the installation sites were interpreted by the artist, "the pay phone in public space demonstrates, at times very poignantly, our need to be connected to one another," says Quinn.
The Project intends to reward pedestrians who take a closer look at their surroundings. "You can live somewhere forever and never fully grasp all of the stories that are embedded in the landscape," Quinn explains.
"I started paying attention to pay phones because I think they are beautiful objects. . .There is this obvious potential for creating new functions for them, and best of all [for the Project] no one seemed to care about them, much less notice them."
So, take interest in your environment and that awareness will be rewarded with the creative narratives engineered by the Pay Phone Revival Project artists.
And if the phone rings? Answer it — you never know who or what could be waiting on the other end of the line.
See a map of the Pay Phone Revival Project installations here.