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You are in: Birmingham > People > Stories > 2.5 Hours of Oxygen

2.5 Hours of Oxygen

Seven red city centre phone boxes, seven artists, guerilla knitting, pin hole photography. 2.5 hours.

Alastair Levy's 'Fleet'

Alastair Levy's 'Fleet'

Seven of Birmingham city centre's last remaining K6 red phone boxes became the unusual gallery space for seven exhibiting artists. Named after the urban myth for the amount of oxygen in a phone booth, 2.5 Hours of Oxygen is set to to transform the humble phone box as a communication space.


Gene-George Earie might call...

Alastair Levy's work, Fleet, features 100 paper planes attached to the exterior of a phone box, looking as though it is under attack. "There's an obvious reference to September 11th but it's not a political statement at all," says Alastair. "It's really about the contrasts of materials, the metal phone box and its reference to empire and history, contrasted with the lightweight and playful paper airplanes."

Fleet is one of four installations in phone boxes directly behind Birmingham Museum and Art gallery. Passers-by are curious and frustrated by Gene-George Earie's untitled work in a neighbouring phone box.

Hinge, aka curator Anne Forgan's kiosk

Hinge, aka curator Anne Forgan's kiosk

When a stranger calls

The door to the phone box is propped open, inviting people in, and then at regular intervals Gene-George calls the telephone inside. Several people can't resist and step inside to answer, only for Gene-George to hang up immediately.  "Answer me!" laughs one man, others giggle nervously and watch, waiting for it to ring again.

Further along the street curator Anne Forgan's phone box is covered in messages, letters and emails printed onto acetate, covering the windows. Several people stop to read the tiny print of personal notes addressed to a stranger.

Julia O'Connell's Calling Cards

Julia O'Connell's Calling Cards

Calling cards

In the box next door are beautifully stitched fabric calling cards by Julia O'Connell. "The phone box is there to promote traditional conversation and this works well with the tradition of embroidery."

Next to St Phillip's Cathedral is an example of yarn bombing by Rachel Elwell. A confused policeman is about to remove the knitted woolly scarf that has been tightly wrapped around a phone box, sealing it shut. He thinks kids have been playing.

Yarn Bombing by Rachael Elwell

Yarn Bombing by Rachael Elwell

Knitted graffiti

"It's urban knitting," says Rachel. "We're knitting graffiti and interacting with other urban spaces, reclaiming the city through a love of knitting and doing something very unconventional with it."

Over near the iron man statue people are almost queuing to get inside Anne Walker's camera obscura. Her phone box is decked out with purple drapes, making the inside seem all the more intriguing. "I'm inviting people to go inside and view the world upside down and inside out," says Anne "and I'll be taking pictures myself using my mouth as a pin hole camera."

Rebecca Gamble's Forum Kiosk

Rebecca Gamble's Forum Kiosk

Forum Kiosk

The phone is ringing in the next door booth. It's Rebecca Gamble's Forum Kiosk. "I've invited 200 plus participants online to call the phone box or leave a question, it's similar to an internet forum. People will be having discussions about communications and then everything will be collated into a book."

In two and and a half hours the exhibition is over and the phone boxes that perhaps went unnoticed by the majority of passers-by may now just get a more curious glance.  "It's wonderful," said city worker Claire Morgan "we may not use phone boxes that much anymore but they've certainly got people talking."

last updated: 23/03/2009 at 18:49
created: 19/03/2009

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