Talking Poles

Collaborators: Lorna Boschman, T’Uy’Tanat Cease Wyss, and Vicki Moulder

In March 2008, we submitted a proposal to build two interactive Talking Poles – public artworks that would play back residents’ words, music and laughter. Our proposal was accepted, and we began the process of fabricating the Poles and planning design tactics for local residents. The Poles are steel structures decorated with a vinyl mural displaying the thematic imagery. The electronic components are powered by a solar panel located in the top cone of each pole. Audio recordings of local residents’ voices range in length from 30-90 seconds and play back from an MP3 player housed inside a metal cone above each Pole. By working with people from the area, two themes were chosen – Love and Peace – these words are displayed in ten languages on the Poles. Pedestrians approaching the Pole trigger a sensor, activating pre-recorded audio clips by local residents sending messages to future generations.

Read more about the project on the City of Surrey’s Public Art Program web site.

To involve participants, we contacted a number of local community groups, schools and spiritual leaders; developed iconography with a university visual art class; worked with high school design students; and organized a World Drumming Day event at a First Nations housing co-op. To engage residents who walked along the Greenway, we designed a Talking Pole prototype and placed it on location. With printed brochures in hand, we stood in front of the prototype inviting people to sit at a table and to talk with us. The sound and video below are examples of the community engagement.

Audio Samples
Oldhands Blessing, Surrey, BC
Acharya Dwivedi message on peace

Video Samples
Talking Poles: Tamanawis students perform The True Hearts
Talking Poles: Acharya S. P. Dwivedi sings a poem about the power of the natural world

Documentation

This illustration captures the original Talking Poles design. It was our intention to engrave the audio waves of each person who we recorded into the metal base like a thumb print.