Materials: Wood, laminated C-print, bromure, walkman, audio recording, 4 sets of postcards, silkscreen print, leather handle. The installation contains a set of 4 suitcases and 4 folding tables, and various audience prompts
Dimensions: Suitcase: 50 x 40 x 10cm each. Folding tables: 200 x 6 x 90cm
Catalogued: Lucy Orta, Phaidon Press, 2002; Lucy Orta: Process of Transformation, Editions Jean-Michel Place, Paris, 1996
Exhibition history: 2005 Barbican Art gallery, The Curve, London; 1997 Casino Luxembourg; 1966 Metz Detention Centre and Metz city centre, France
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta
Commune Communicate starts its life in the CP Metz, a prison in the North West of France. Lucy Orta spent several weeks with a small group of inmates discussing their daily routine, what they missed and their aspirations for the future. She recorded the conversations and took photographs of their environment, objects, and the 19 doors she had to pass through to enter into contact with the men.
Commissioned by the FRAC Lorraine and the Casino Luxembourg centre for contemporary art, these workshops were part of a wider project entitled Actions Urbaines (Urban Actions) throughout the city of Metz. For her city action, she created a series of 'tools' that she could display in the public space, to facilitate conversations with passers-by. These objects are the 'Perimeter Communication Units', a set of folding tables made from re-purposed painter and decorator tables; and the '19 Doors Dialogue Units', simple wooden hand-made box suitcases, containing compartments for a set of postcards and a walkman with the editing audio recordings of her conversations at CP Metz.
The ad hoc display of incongruous objects in the busy streets of Metz purposely attracted attention and passers-by were invited to listen to the men speak, to take a postcard from the box and write a response back. The postcards were collected togther and at the end of the day sent back to the inmates, thus infiltrating conversations through the walls of the detention centre.
At the end of Actions Urbaines, the objects created and the collection of messages were exhbited inside CP Metz, in the visiting rooms for all inmates to view.