John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Good luck trying to place a call in this booth-cum-aquarium.
Bad news, comic-book nerds: Superman was found drowned this morning, after accidentally locking himself in a phone booth full of water and goldfish.
Just kidding! Superman can't drown, of course. (Or can he?) But there really is a phone booth two-timing as an aquarium. It's sitting in a public square in Durham, a smallish city in the northeast part of England, and is filled to the brim with glowing blue water, vivid-green aquatic plants, and orange fish lazily drifting around a submerged phone receiver.
The oceanic booth, just begging for some Mr. Magoo to open it and be washed away in a tidal wave, was fabricated by French artists Benoit Deseille and Benedetto Bufalino (of cardboard-Ferrari fame). They put it out for public inspection yesterday at the opening of the city's Lumiere festival, a celebration of neon, projected images, glowing vessels, and other light-based art. The booth is the latest in a line of phony aquariums fabricated by Deseille and Bufalino; they've installed others in Lyon, France, and in Mauritius.
Here's how they describe the bizarre project:
Now that everybody has a mobile phone, rather than taking phone boxes away, why not keep them and fill them with water to turn them into aquariums? We like to play with the fabric of urban space, to shift things around. So we play with all the material that surrounds us to see how it can be combined. Just as someone writing sentences combines existing words, we combine existing forms to make them into something else.
For the record, this is not the first phone-booth aquarium on earth. Last year, Japanese artists deployed similar tanks around Osaka that they called "goldfish clubs."
Lumiere at Durham - aquarium in a telephone box! pic.twitter.com/PGqVrLelv6— Vivien Self (@mooslybut) November 14, 2013
For those curious about what else is happening at the 2013 Lumiere bash, projected on a bridge is also this mirage of an elephant: