PORTSMOUTH - Saturday’s
rain may have kept some passers-by from interacting with Portsmouth’s
latest outdoor art installation, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of
the creators of "CallBox Four," Jennifer Belkus and Tim Gaudreau.
Umbrella poised and screwdriver in hand, Gaudreau and Belkus put
the finishing touches on the installation’s mount as people scurried
along the rain-soaked sidewalk.
"Rain or not," said Belkus, "we’ve got the spirit."
The CallBox, brightly painted blue and orange with a shell that
depicts the four elements - earth, air, fire and water - hangs on the
wall outside the Nahcotta Gallery on Congress Street. A motion detector
activates the ring tone when pedestrians pass, inviting them to pick up
the orange handset, choose an element and hear recorded musings on each
woven from community voices and people-on-the-street interviews.
"The recordings are caveats and celebrations," Belkus said.
"They present these themes in a new context and provide an opportunity
to re-think or renew our relationship to these elements in our town or
our ideas," Gaudreau continued.
Ecology is a thread that runs through both artists’ work, and
they spent a great deal of time conceptualizing a piece of art that
would not only get folks to stop but encourage them to think about
these themes and connect the art to the community.
"There is so much stuff," said Gaudreau, "images, advertising, technology. It’s tricky to find ways to get people to pause."
The installation is the second in a series of six pieces, and
the first of two installations by Gaudreau and Belkus, in an exhibit
called "Overnight Art!" designed to increase community awareness of the
city’s master plan and public art.
Gaudreau and Belkus spent time creating public awareness in
neon sandwich boards on Market Square, recording community member’s
reflections on the four elements for CallBox Four.
"There is an outreach element to the project," Belkus said.
"We wanted to generate folks’ thinking before. The audience is a direct
participant in this project."
Eric Schroeder from Portland, Maine, stopped to participate. A mason, he chose earth as his element.
"I wondered if the idea was to get people thinking about these
elements," he said. "It’s a neat idea. It makes you want to record