tele- is an unusual online art and literary magazine, focusing on communication, collaboration, and continuation across distance, language, and medium.
“In the end, works of art are the only media of complete and unhindered communication between man and man that can occur in a world full of gulfs and walls that limit the community of experience.” — John Dewey, Art as Experience
Each issue of tele- is an experiment set up to test the capacities of art. A family of questions guides the investigation: How can a work of art function as a form of communication, and on what level of consciousness does this transaction take place? In the liminal space between speaker and listener, writer and reader, artist and observer, what forces are at work in filtering, transforming, and translating* the message? How much of the self is involved in the transmission of the message? To what extent can one pass it on? What parts of the self intervene in, or interfere with, what was said? What is the role of game-playing, or play in general, in mediating our ability to understand each other, but also to lead our perhaps more separate creative lives?
“If… the adult can manage to enjoy the personal intermediate area without making claims, then we can acknowledge our own corresponding intermediate areas, and are pleased to find a degree of overlapping, that is to say common experience between members of a group in art or religion or philosophy.” — D. W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality
tele- issues are formed from a semi-collaborative process, in which each contributor creates a work individually in response to the work of another tele- contributor, attempting to carry the piece over* through a different medium. By power of the game’s iterative nature, each artist, in trying to say the whole thing, creates a piece of the whole, a phrase within the paragraph that the issue turns out to be. Artists are invited into this particular mode of collaboration as a playful and mysterious “meeting grounds” that “[brings] out into the open a strange possibility of thought, which is that of its pooling” (Andre Breton, 1930). tele- begins as a whisper from one artist to the next, stirring the different notes of the wind chime, rustling the leaves, humming at the tops of empty bottles, resulting in a strange chord of these things touched by the wind.
This type of collaboration, this carrying over or passing on, is essentially an act of continuation of a thought, impulse, image, or gesture as it passes through hands, minds, languages, and media, and over distance. tele- is made up of this process of perceiving, understanding, engaging and negotiating with the work of others, the working through, or analysis, of the movement between contributors, and the final product, the published issue, in which readers/viewers and contributors can see each element as it makes up the whole, experiencing that movement themselves as they click through the ordered pages. The audience is invited to engage with the work as a whole by following its development, observing not just the pieces themselves, but their emergent relationship.
“Play is the base of every truly creative art expression.” — James John Sweeney
tele- is similar to the game known as telephone, teléfono descompuesto, or the game of variants, in which one person whispers a word or phrase to the next player and the whisper is passed on, changing as it goes around the circle. The goal is not to purposefully alter the whisper passed around the telephone game, but to continue the line of communication in its inevitable changing. The game is a machine that allows gaps to emerge by themselves—between what you said and what I took you to say, between what I said and what I thought I meant, etc.—, and it is in those gaps that tele- comes alive and each issue acquires a destiny of its own. Each activation of tele-’s mechanism is an experiment in the trans-individual dimension of speaking and listening, a summoning of the unconscious, that strange, always slanted harmony of our individual voices.
Each issue begins with a theme. A jumping off point for the first contributor to begin from and a sort of soft compass for proceeding contributors to turn to, if they need some grounding or context. The first contributor creates a piece embodying or responding to this theme and sends it to the editors, who pass it on to the following contributor, someone working in a different medium and/or language. Along with the submission of their piece, each contributor includes a brief statement (see below) on their contribution. This statement, however, plays no direct role in the transmission, as subsequent artists work exclusively off of the incarnation of the message passed on to them. In this way, the finished issue results from two processes, one transitive, the other self-reflective.
The Work & Working Through
The completed issue of tele- includes each contributor’s piece, presented in order of generation, so that viewers can click through and watch the evolution of the message. This showcases the work at the heart of tele-: how each individual piece in fact engages with the one that came before; what survives (and in what form) from one piece to the next; what a piece ends up doing through (or despite?) its attempt to translate its predecessor. The work, in short, is just the living thing itself—plainly visible in its stages yet mum as to what it is and by dint of what forces. In addition, each piece links to a written statement, where the artist reflects on, works through, their contribution. If the work is the unfolding dream, the working through is the no-less pregnant attempt to formulate its meaning. Far from providing an immediate, or unfiltered, glimpse into the invisible process of tele-’s transmission, they are, once again, results of this process, only turned inward.