What is left of us

In 1948, a telephone booth is erected in the middle of the Mojave Desert, on the border between Nevada and California, twenty kilometers from any form of civilization. Destined for a mining project that was never to see the light of day, the phone booth was abandoned, falling into obscurity and becoming the only witness to human life in this desert landscape. Fifty years later, it is accidentally rediscovered by a hiker. Preserved despite the passage of time, it stands as a timeless relic of another era. Thus, is born the legend of the Mojave Desert Phone Booth, attracting people from all over the world calling in to share fragments of their lives. As it became a genuine destination for pilgrims, the desert’s fragile ecosystem experienced upheaval as foot traffic increased. In the early 2000s, the authorities were forced to dismantle it.

This story, coupled with his interest in collapsology – a school of thought that considers the risks, causes and consequences of a collapse of industrial civilization – prompted Guillaume Saindon to create “What is left of us”, an immersive, participatory installation.

What is left of us invites reflection on the changing status of the objects that populate our quotidian lives and memories. Once ubiquitous, now gradually becoming invisible, telephone booths are the markers of a bygone era. What, then, is the value of the conversations we had in them, the graffiti we wrote or the shelter they provided? And finally, what is the meaning of the traces we leave behind us as a society and as individuals?

What is left of us has two distinct versions. The first invites viewers to enter a phone booth and pick up the phone for an immersive, participatory experience. From the handset to the number pad to the digital screen, the entire payphone has been “reverse-engineered” so that digital technologies can be used to take control. As the experience unfolds, visitors create their own scenario, and hear audio pieces directly from the phone. As the narrative unfolds, the booth comes to life as a character in its own right. Guiding viewers through their reflections and developing a sense of closeness with them, it invites them to confide in it. Thanks to transducers, the booth surfaces vibrate and amplify the sensory experience, while the windows, fitted with electrochromic film, can be made opaque on command, plunging the viewer into a world where his or her senses are highly stimulated. It is in fact by drawing on the audience’s sensory reception that the experience seeks to convey its message. Ultimately, everyone comes away with a different, personal experience, rich in meaning and sometimes experienced in imperceptible depths.

The second version offers a more decentralized experience. When the booth is set up in the city, a web application activates the surrounding functional booths, enabling people to experience it in a different way. A more advanced version of the project will also enable viewers to record messages they would like to leave to the world after their visit.

Beyond it’s technical aspect, What is left of us offers an individual moment of reflection that is nearly meditative. In this space, where one feels a sense of intimacy, anonymity and isolation from the outside turmoil, each enters with memories specific to their own personal experience. And while the idea of the phone booth also touches on the universal and feeds our collective imagination, it is above all a symbol of the passage of time and a world in constant evolution.

Let’s consider the traces, the legacy we leave to future generations…

Details

30 min, one participant at a time

production

2359

CREATIVE TEAM

Director
Guillaume Saindon

Cast
Marc-André Charrette
Émilie Camiré-Pecek

Music
Jean-Christophe Yelle

Set design
Jack Terrion

Lighting
Chantal Labonté

Digital development
Seth Thomson

Dramaturgy
Marie-Ève Fontaine
Sylvain Schryburt

Stage Manager
Sasha Hayashi

Production Manager
Mélanie Thévenaz
Zackari Gosselin

Technical Director
Kyle Ahluwalia

PAST TOURS

– Les Zones Théâtrales, Ottawa (ON), September 2021
– Avantage Numérique, Rouyn-Noranda (QC), May 2022
– OFFTA, Montreal (QC), May 2022