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Photos by Andy Johnson

Metadata Hotline 2013 - 2015
telephone, speakers, micro-controller, LED, sound (later versions have motion sensor)
12 clips ranging from 0:34 to 0:56 (original, later versions variable)

7" x 5" x 9"
Voice actor: Andrew Kagen
Collaborators: Sam Bobra & Diego Olvera (software support), Qichao Shao (hardware support)

Metadata Hotline is an interactive sound sculpture that reclaims the telephone as a site of communication rather than a site of surveillance. The phone begins "dialing" as soon as the receiver is lifted and re-dials each time. As political theorist Jodie Dean has argued, organizations with ideologies of transparency often generate so much media spectacle that they distract from they very issues they claim to highlight; the celebrity of figures like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden distracts from the information they disseminate. Metadata Hotline therefore seeks to deliver the information gleaned from the NSA leaks more directly, more personally, and with less spectacle. Although the NSA claims to access only the metadata of phone communications, this information often reveals much more than the content itself, and narratives are easily constructed to fill in the gaps. Metadata Hotline informs listeners about what kind of information the government can access and what can be inferred from it. Where the NSA operates secretly, the speaker here is very direct, even smug, in relaying information about surveillance. By using a vintage land line phone, the work references a time before cell phones and GPS tracking, when the metadata from a phone call might reveal only where you live but nothing more. Unlike cordless land phones, however, this phone’s design alludes to the shape of the body; the talking head is reminded of the body it has left behind.

Versions of the project have been shown at the Experimental Gallery (Ithaca, NY), Java Studios Gallery (Brooklyn, NY), the Reece Museum (Johnson City, TN), and Phoenix Gallery and AC Institute (New York, NY).


©Emily Greenberg. All rights reserved.