You have permission to eavesdrop.
That’s the purpose of the six listening booths and their library of 7-inch vinyl records coming to the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland Oct. 7-Jan. 28 for Phil Collins: My Heart’s In My Hand, And My Hand Is Pierced, And My Hand’s In The Bag, And The Bag Is Shut, And My Heart Is Caught.
It’s the work of British artist Phil Collins (no, not that Phil Collins). The Turner Prize-nominee set up a phone booth in a homeless shelter in Cologone, Germany, and invited guests to make free calls with the understanding that they were being recorded and anonymized. Then Collins collaborated with musicians from Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States to craft 13 songs using the conversations as inspiration.
“You kind of get lured in,” says MOCA senior curator Andria Hickey. “Suddenly you realize that you’re thinking really deeply about this subject.”
The 9-by-6-by-5-foot wood and glass booths are an important part of the exhibit, enclosing the listener in a single experience meant to focus their thoughts and touch upon issues of individual isolation, communication and the value of connection.
Compositions range from experimental electronic sounds with ambient washes of noise to folk and indie rock. In “Lost and Found,” for example, Laetitia Sadier mixes a sweet and lyrical indie sound with conversations from Collins’ recordings.
“It really brings to light the humanity of these intense and challenging experiences,” says Hickey. “You really hear some of the everyday troubles that these people are facing. It’s unexpected, and that’s what catches your attention.”
For Hickey, the power of Collins’ work can often be found in these snippets of disconnected intimacy.
“I’m really hoping that in listening to these songs, and really even just thinking about the fact that the lyrics were once spoken by a person that was in such a place of distress,” Hickey says, “that there will be a kind of real sensitivity and renewed thoughtfulness about the issue [of homelessness] locally.”