by Kim Burns
For years, the phone booth in the back stairwell of WHS went unnoticed,
unused and overlooked; however, over Spring Break, Project ‘79 commenced the booth’s dramatic makeover and revealed its new look on April 16. The booth is now decorated with a sky filled with clouds, a chair with a speaker system playing an audio loop of recorded sounds and goes by the name the No Phone Booth.
According to Project ‘79 Teacher Dr. Peter Horn’s blog, No Phone Booth is intended to raise questions about communication and mindfulness in our increasingly technology-dependent society. The students re-purposed the phone booth to take a break from technology and experience being in the present moment. Said Horn, “It’s important to let ourselves be a little bit bored and just pay attention and that’s how ideas happen. Unless we have practice slowing down, unplugging, powering down and paying attention, our threshold of frustration will be so low that when thinking through difficult problems we'll [just] go onto next thing."
Said Art Teacher Mr. Roy Chambers, “We wanted to transform this space into this cloud-like, dream-like place where you can sit and float in the clouds and listen to interesting sounds that you’d normally miss.” Project ‘79 student senior Amanda Pinho said, “If someone just had a really hard test or had to go for a walk and they went to the booth, I feel like it'd be a really good place to breathe.”
According to Chambers, the design was inspired by Belgian surreal artist René Magritte, whose work typically includes clouds.
In addition, Horn said that inspiration for the No Phone Booth came from a Project ‘79 field trip to the New York Public Library in January. This January, in which students took a workshop with Kinokophone, an artist collective that organizes sounds, stories and images from around the world, according to kinokophone.com. With Kinokophone member Ms. Amanda Belantara, students recorded the mechanics of the library and the sounds that surround us each day.
At WHS, the Project ‘79 students furthered their recordings to include the sounds of scribbling, tapping on calculators, pencil sharpening and many others. Said Chambers, “The guidelines were it shouldn't include voices, it should be just a naturally occurring sound, and to just go around the building and outside the building and listen.” Afterwards, Chambers compiled the recordings into a five minute loop that plays in the speakers above the chair from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. daily.
According to Horn, the booth will play a new loop starting in a few weeks. Horn invites anyone to submit their own recordings from around the school or Westfield community to be featured in the loop. To submit a recording, email Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org.