On April 4, 2011 Matt Reilly and Ian Vanek of the music and art duo Japanther launched The Phone Booth Project, a multidisciplinary work exploring ideas of community and storytelling through audio art, installation, and performance.
Over the course of a month, Reilly and Vanek hosted three salon-style dinners for groups of 35 to 50 invited guests in the upper gallery of the Clocktower, which the artists covered with hundreds of limited-edition posters, cards, flyers and printed matter produced over the course of their career. During each dinner, Japanther invited other artists –including musicians, visual artists, and spoken word artists– to perform for the dinner guests, alongside multimedia presentations by Reilly and Vanek about their sources of inspiration, past and ongoing projects, and experimental pieces of audio and video art. The dinner meals were prepared by California-based chef Jenn Su, who specializes in cooking healthy, sustainable meals for touring musicians. Through this project, Reilly and Vanek sought to recreate the sense of intimacy and community embodied in the experience of using a form of analog communication that is quickly becoming an object of nostalgic curiosity, particularly with the rising predominance of voiceless forms of correspondence such as texting and chatting.
Japanther’s final work of audio art is composed of excerpts of stories told by dinner guests who were invited to visit and call Japanther’s miniature recording studio, a public pay phone booth and a two-way recorder embedded in the telephone receiver. The phone booth is currently on view at the Clocktower Gallery, where viewers are invited to listen to these stories simply by picking up the phone’s receiver. This work of audio art is also archived for free and on-demand listing at ARTonAIR.org.
Formed in 2001, Japanther has released over a dozen albums and toured in three continents Their artwork has been featured numerous art fairs and exhibitions including the 2006 Whitney Biennial as part of the Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty puppet rock opera. Additionally, Reilly and Vanek have collaborated with artists including Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Laurent P. Berger, Tony Oursler, Penny Rimbaud, Eileen Myles, robbinschilds, Dawn Riddle, Claudia Meza, Ninjasonik, Anita Sparrow and Spankrock to create original works of visual, film, and performance art.
This project is part of the Clocktower Emerging Artist Residency Program, made possible by the Jerome Foundation, which seeks to foster a dynamic and evolving culture by supporting the creation, development, and production of new works by emerging artists.
Additional thanks to all the farms and bakeries that provided fresh, local, organic food for the Japanther dinners including: Old Field Farm , 5 lbs of Dirt Farm, Tom Cat Bakery, Lani's Farm, Norwich Meadows Farm, Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, Paffenroth Gardens, Gorzynski Ornery Farm, Terhune Orchards, Bulich Mushroom Farm.