Last fall, when we decided on the theme of “Collect Call,” we were interested in the many ways the phrase could be interpreted. As many of our contributors note, the collect call brings with it literal and figurative associations of value, debt, and exchange coincident with connection and communication.
Taken on its own, collect has a considerable number of definitions to engage with. To gather together, as we have done with this group of artists. To collect oneself or one’s things, to regain control. To build a collection. Last week I asked our followers on Instagram what they collect or have collected in the past and got a range of responses from cat whiskers to movie ticket stubs, dried flowers to Pokémon cards, film canisters full of sand to dead insects and rocks. I felt what intimate glimpses into people’s worlds collections can be.
Of course, there are many kinds of collections. I keep returning to the image of the couple in the midst of a divorce, splitting up their Ty® Beanie Babies on the floor of a Las Vegas courtroom. During the Beanie Baby craze, the enthusiasm to collect was fueled by the bizarre expectation that these $5 toys would someday be worth thousands. Looking at the photo in the present, I see the disappointment of the dissolution of the marriage and the future disappointment in the failure of these toys to appreciate in value. Recognizing bad investments.
In whom and what do you invest? And in what ideas? What values? The artists in this issue return to this question repeatedly from different angles. As this transmission is passed from one person to the next, see how each contends with placing the call and answering it, with reaching out and reaching in, meeting and recognizing the caller, exposing and transposing the self.
This issue was created between April and July of 2020. More than in any past issue of Tele-, this issue engages particularly with the time in which it was created. “The call” expanded from a single connection between two subjects to a broader call to a greater collective. While protests continued across the U.S. in response to racist killings by the police, contributors reflected on the call to action, and the call as the beginning of a conversation, a place to listen, to “accept the charges.”
Bringing this issue together was a collective effort. In the past, Tele- has been built in a line. Here, we tried something new. The signal was transmitted in a circular chain, so that the final transmission was returned to the first artist, who then “closed the loop” by responding to the final piece. I’m struck by how the initial piece by Greer Pester, a stack of arched figures (more or less whole), becomes in the end a circular composition of discrete body parts. In its journey from beginning to end, the transmission is worked on with various techniques. Some artists gather images together, collecting and assembling until they can say: I see that in this. Some meet the message by stepping outside themselves, incorporating it into themselves, becoming one. Some work through abstraction, extraction, and detachment. Some pull it inward, others project it outward. In the end, I see these actions taken in the process of carrying over the message have resulted in a return, as in Greer’s final collage, in which something is let go, the whole is disassembled and then rebuilt with the parts of many.
One last thing: for this issue, we’ll be publishing one piece each day for the next couple of weeks. Follow along with us each day as the issue unfolds, and check in once it’s finished to click through the development of the piece.
Thanks to all of our artists and writers for generously sharing their time, effort, and thoughts with us. And thanks to my co-editors, Rachel and Misha.