Téléphone Arabe #5
a sign by Clément de Gaulejac

permanent installation


There is an idiomatic french expression – téléphone arabe – which means on the one hand the rumour (or at least a non-reliable information) and on the other hand the game of the children who take place in round, whisper a message in the next ear, and so on, until it becomes completely distorted. Written in arabic, the word telephone creates a gap in the meaning with the french idiom Téléphone arabe. Indeed, the word telephone in arabic is arabic only for the non-arabic-speakers ; the arabic-speakers, as for them, read the word telephone without the arabic denotation and obviously all the connotations in french language and culture.

The first « arabic phone » has been produced in Brussels with a blue neon and hung on a bridge. But few days after its hanging, it has been vandalized. The artist-run center which had invited me to produce it then asked a calligrapher to produce a poster with the drawing of the Téléphone arabe to replace the broken neon, and stucked it straight to the wall (Recyclart, 2005). This facts sequence introduced a serie in which every new element is copied from the one who precedes it, without considering legibility, reenacting the rule of the téléphone arabe game. Then, from the calligrapher's drawing, a new neon was produced in Montreal in 2006 and settled in the front wall of a private house. It was then updated in the center of Ottawa where it lived as a parasite on the henceforth obsolete signalling system of a former governmental building (Saw Gallery, 2007). Let us note that the expression téléphone arabe little used in Quebec, means nothing at all in the English-speaking federal capital of Canada : sign losing its meaning, untranslatable, the Téléphone arabe goes away from its source, irreversibly.

Since, like a sleeper agent, the Téléphone arabe was waiting wisely for a mission. Recently, it was interpreted in Paris on a blackboard, taking up for a while with its linguistic origin (Ménagerie de verre, 2011). It is this model which was given to the craftsman in charge of reproducing it as a led sign for the shop of the Anshun Lu's bazar, within the framework of the Bazaar Compatible Program.

Clément de Gaulejac, 2012/03/05