Right, so Gothamist isnât returning our phone calls, and we can only assume that theyâre not going to take us up on our Telectroscope dance challenge. Chickens. Dance-off or not, we wanted to check out the Telectroscope for ourselves. Would it be awkward to stand there gaping at people on the other end? Is it worth leaving behind the webcam and the comfort of our own homes to communicate via this âVictorianâ invention? To find out, we sent an expat Londonista and her Brooklyn-based brother on a Telectroscope test run. Her experiences, some favourites from the Flickr folk, and a Telectroscopic event to knock your Victorian socks off follow…
My brother and I live some 3,000 miles apart. Between busy schedules and a 5-hour time difference, we donât talk nearly enough. Meanwhile, revelling in the ridiculous is a shared family trait. So when we learned that the Telectroscope installation would connect our respective cities, even, nearly, our respective neighbourhoods, we thought, yes, brilliant, obviously weâre going to have to check this out. We canât often schedule a time to talk on the phone, but we will schedule a time to talk via placards at some gimmicky public art project.
Weâre both there at the agreed-upon time, and I jump when I see him. Though not life-size, he seems close by â as though through binoculars Iâve just spotted him on the banks of the Thames not far from where I stand. Except that thatâs the Brooklyn Bridge behind him. He waves. I wave. He waves again. I wave again. We stop and stare at each other. So I wave some more. Weâve been communicating in some form or another for 24 years, but this renders us ineffectual. Unable to talk to him, I turn to the crowd of strangers on my end and do something I donât usually do and in retrospect find deeply disturbing: I talk to them. âThatâs my brother over there!â This elicits the appropriate âawâ I had been aiming for. Now they too wave at him. I become aware that Iâm talking (and probably gesticulating wildly) at the Telectroscope even though he canât hear me. Heâs shrugging at me and shaking his head. Finally, he pulls out his mobile and motions for me to call him. I do, and we have a good laugh about how ridiculous the whole thing felt.
Afterwards, the man standing next to me tells me that this is the most worthwhile public art project heâs ever seen and that he hopes the installation will be extended or even made permanent. Most public art, he says, is the work of âtwatsâ. The former sentiment, at least, is certainly echoed by a number of the visitors who have left comments over at the Telectroscope site.
Our assessment? Kind of silly, a bit gimmicky, nice scenery and, yes, rather awkward. Especially without the erasable boards weâd read would be available to write messages to each other. It also feels a bit like being in the zoo or a laboratory. Look â New Yorkers! In their natural habitat!
Still, itâs oddly fun. The funâs on for only another 10 days, though, as the installation is scheduled to close on 15 June. Head here for the full details.
And if youâd like a bit more activity to enrich your Telectroscope experience, consider showing up this Saturday at 7pm. Alternatively dubbed as the International Telectroscope Wave or the Trans-Atlantic Inter-Era Telectroscope Steampunk Conference, Victorian vintage-wearing revellers on both sides of the Atlantic will convene to wave wildly at each other. Londonâs participants will then retire to White Mischiefâs Around the World in 80 Days for a full night of vaudeville performances.