Monday, June 2, 2008

Behold the Telectroscope!

There is a secret transatlantic tunnel running between New York and London ... and it has lain undisturbed for a hundred years. Now recently completed, this tunnel forms the backbone of an extraordinary optical device allowing people on one side of the world to see the other. Behold the Telectroscope – an incredible public art project by British artist Paul St George that is designed to provide a window between two great world cities, from Brooklyn Bridge in New York to Tower Bridge in London.

Between May 22 and June 15, 2008, this outdoor interactive video installations will link London and New York City in a fanciful simulated "telectroscope." Using broadband internet cable to transmit video images between the two venues at high speed, the Telectroscope gives the impression that the two cities are connected via a massive telescope under the Atlantic Ocean. London visitors will be able to wave down a massive viewing pipe into the earth and see New Yorkers waving back. Perhaps most impressively, this installation represents the first time that spectators will be able to have a real-time, life-size view across the pond 24 hours a day.

According to the Telecroscope's invented back story, the device uses an impossibly long transatlantic tunnel started in the 19th century by the artist's fictional great-grandfather. This story was realized as part of the installation through a series of pre-opening events that depicted huge drill bits erupting from the ground near the Brooklyn and Tower bridges, presumably completing the telectroscope tunnel.

In reality, the term "telectroscope" was first used by the French writer and publisher Louis Figuier in 1878 to popularize an invention he wrongly interpreted as real and ascribed to Alexander Graham Bell. That device would have allowed merchants to transmit pictures of their wares to their customers, the contents of museum collections would be made available to scholars in distant cities, and (combined with the telephone), operas and plays could be broadcast into people's homes. Sadly, this a device was a fabrication – at least inasmuch as it fraudulently claimed many of the properties of the simultaneously developing television.

The Telectroscope installation is a production of the Artichoke company, a London-based live event company best know for its 2006 staging of The Sultan's Elephant, the biggest piece of free theatre ever seen in London. Created by French theatrical magicians, Royal de Luxe, The Sultan's Elephant featured a vast, time-traveling mechanical elephant, and a giant girl, twenty feet high. Hundreds of thousands of spectators followed the show as it moved between the city's great landmarks, delighting in the massive 42 ton elephant made mostly of wood, operated by a team of over ten puppeteers using a mixture of hydraulics and motors.

The Telectroscope is only open for two more weeks – until June15. So if you're fortunate enough to be in London or New York before it disappears back into the earth, swing down to the river and peek across the world. If you're very persuasive, the instillation managers will even let you schedule your visit so that you can meet a friend on the other side of the pond. FB


Anonymous said...

Thank you, that was extremely valuable and interesting...I will be back again to read more on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Thanks for sharing the link - but unfortunately it seems to be down? Does anybody here at have a mirror or another source?