Tag Archives: urbis

Spy Phone

I recently purchased a modified Nokia phone, that lets you set it into a “spy mode” – whereby the phone appears to be off but will actually automatically answer any incoming phone calls; without any visible signs. Its designed for un-trusting types to spy on their friends, employers or loved ones. Fortunately, I’m in a position where this is not by primary intention!

I thought it would be cool to do some kind of interactive art work with it. When my University tutors asked me to look at the Urban Legends stories, I thought it’d be fun to create an Urban legend of my own. It would start, in lavish style, in a toilet. Graffiti on the walls tells the story, and concludes with a “real world” factor – a phone number. If anyone is inclined to phone the telephone number, they would be connected to my subversive spy phone – which resides in an undisclosed location. What the caller is listening to is…… in the eye of the beholder. I guess.

Urban Myths at URBIS

I took part in ‘Urban Myths Retold’ at the Urbis museum, in Manchester. The project was off the back of a literature competition that Urbis had already run, asking writers to create short stories either re-telling or creating brand new urban legends. 10 performance-based installations took place at different sites around Urbis, that visitors viewed as part of a 1-hour-long guided tour.

The work that I took part in was based on the story “Three feet from Leroy” – about a man who becomes obsessed with what appears to be an imaginary rat; his fear lead by the legend that, in a City, you are never more than three feet away from a rat. My friend Bryn Lloyd-Evans had created a sculpture, reflecting on some of the themes running through the story.

To augment the physical sculpture, we created a word-based (using the prose) sound scape, that I performed using Ableton Live. In addition my girlfriend, Caiti Berry, “VJ’d” a video performance (using OpenTZT; cool software)that was projected over the sculpture and in a stair-well of the space we were in. The space itself was a claustrophobic service stairway, in the guts of the building; perfect for this performance but it turned out to be rather unpleasant to spend several hours in.

This is a photo-merged picture of our setup (click for a larger version);

Three feet from Leroy, performance setup at Urbis

A video of all of the installations is being produced, so hopefully I’ll be able to post that on here once it arrives.

Bryn is interested in doing some live performances of poetry, using similar techniques, so that is something to think about. Not sure if its right up my street or not.

This is the story;

Three feet from Leroy by Peter Canning

He knew that in the city you are never more that three feet away from a rat. he moved there anyway, but fatefully for him it would be the same rat. Its name was Leroy and it trailed him everywhere- his bedroom, the loo, his office, parks parachute jumps, lifts, buses and even romantic dinners.

Leroy, despite being a magnificent rat with dark fur and bright eyes, didn’t impress neighbours, colleagues or girlfriends. Soon the office was a distant memory and the only dinners he ate were for one. He grew to hate the vermin and laid poison, but Leroy was too clever.

The years passed. Leroy continued to stalk him down the bust streets and lonely alleyways, screeching mockingly at him whenever they were alone. Eventually, his rat-inspired loneliness drove him away from the city. As he left for his home town he saw in his mirror Leroy loitering irritably at the city limits and thanked his lucky starts that he’d soon have a life again.

But he began to miss those quiet nights when, like soldiers at Christmas 1916, he and Leroy agreed a truce of sorts, watching TV together and sharing a burger.

But his pride was too great for him to return to the city, to be reunited with his rodent friend. Until one day the local council won their fight to reclassify the town as a city. And as if by magic, he heard a screeching from under the floorboards.