New Interactive Exhibit at UCSD: Turning Overheard Conversations into Art

By Doug Ramsey

San Diego, January 8, 2010 -- Inspired by overheard snippets of cell phone conversations that most people would ignore, Wendy Richmond and collaborator Michael Chladil have taken background noise and turned it into an interactive artwork. 

"Overheard" exhibition runs January 15 through March 12, 2010
“Overheard” opens January 15 and runs through March 12, 2010 in the gallery@calit2 on the University of California, San Diego campus. The gallery is a rare arts-oriented venue in a technological hotbed, the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

The Jan. 15 launch includes a panel discussion and Q&A with the artists at 6pm in the Calit2 Theater, together with UCSD visual arts professor Benjamin Bratton and moderator Ricardo Dominguez, a professor of visual arts. An opening reception from 7pm to 9pm will also be open to the public and free of charge.

The installation will consist of multiple displays of textual graphics, based on overheard New York City cell phone conversations, ranging in subject matter from the poetic to the banal. The audio, made up of recordings of conversations spoken by actors, will be triggered as the audience moves through the gallery space.

In addition, two interactive ‘rope&pulley’ systems will allow visitors to interface with the displayed graphics – changing their shape and size. The visual elements of the fragmented conversation continue on the gallery display walls on the first floor of Atkinson Hall.

The installation is designed to provide viewers an opportunity to reframe the barrage of private and public expression that they navigate in their everyday lives. “Our goal in this exhibit is to create a rich visual and aural space that undergoes constant change depending on the visitors’ action and inaction,” said artist Wendy Richmond. “The experience in this space will hopefully linger as the visitors re-enter their normal routines.”

Richmond said that she and her collaborator Michael Chladil also hope to tackle two critical questions about our use of technology: “How does our personal technology affect the ways we occupy, experience and participate in public spaces? Do we use personal technology as a form of retreat – intentional or not – from the physical, public space?”


Wendy Richmond

Wendy Richmond is a visual artist, writer and educators whose work explores issues of personal privacy, technology and creativity in contemporary culture. After graduating from Wesleyan University, Richmond began mixing traditional media with new technology at MIT’s Visible Language Workshop/Media Lab and co-founded the Design Lab at WGBH in Boston. She received her Master’s degree at New York University. Her teaching experience includes MIT, International Center of Photography, and Harvard University Graduate School of Educations. Richmond is the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center residency, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a LEF Foundation grant, the Hatch Award for Creative Excellence, and numerous art and design awards. She is a contributing editor at Communications Arts magazine; her regular column, “Design Culture”, began in 1984. Richmond is the author of Design & Technology: Erasing the Boundaries, and Overneath, a collaboration of photography and dance. Her new book, Art Without Compromise*, is published by Allworth Press.

Michael Chladil
Michael Chladil is an interaction designer, prototyping consultant and multimedia artist who grew up playing with computers, pianos and small power tools. After graduating from Stevens Institute of Technology, he worked as a software engineer at Crestron Electronics. A desire to build physical interactive musical systems led Chladil to earn a Master’s degree in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Michael’s work at ITP culminated in the modular ‘rope&pulley’ media control systems he invented in order to combine the expressiveness and physicality of human gestures with the power and flexibility of digital media to create new multimedia performances.


 The gallery @ calit2 reflects the nexus of innovation implicit in Calit2's vision, and aims to advance our understanding and appreciation of the dynamic interplay among art, science and technology. Calit2 is a partnership between UC San Diego and UC Irvine that is organized around cross-disciplinary projects on the future of telecommunications, information technology, new media arts and other technologies that will transform a range of applications important to the California economy and citizens' quality of life.

Exhibition Opening

Friday, January 15, 2010
Panel Discussion
6pm-7pm, Calit2 Theater

Opening Reception
7pm-9pm, gallery@calit2
First Floor, Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego

Gallery Hours
11am-5pm, Monday-Friday
January 18-March 12, 2010
Free Admission

Media Contacts

Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825,

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