Tel Talk Set to Revitalize the Telephone Booth

With widespread cell phone and wifi use, phone booth usage for the young professional has become a thing of our adolescence; unless, of course, your phone dies…but most YPs are prepared enough to carry a charger. Appropriately, many phone booths have disappeared off of street corners. Some still remain, though locating a public phone booth when you do ever need it (like the time you left your phone at the coffee shop counter) can be somewhat of a challenge. Iconic telephone booths are increasingly met with nostalgia as many have slowly but surely been replaced by parking meters, ATMs, bike share stations and newspaper stands.  

Last year, three Toronto young professionals Liis Toliao, Paola Poletto and Yvonne Koscielak came together with an idea to transform phone booths through art, exploring key concepts like privatized public space, conversations and the disappearance of traditional phone booths. Tel-Talk aims to bring together artists of varying backgrounds to each perform and/or animate a booth in response to some of these themes and in consideration of the relationships between form and function, medium and message, telling, talking, texting and more to be documented. 

“What still draws us to the iconic telephone booth is the modular form, its ability to contain the person and give us a defined and perhaps nostalgic, perhaps false, sense of personal space and privacy within the busiest of streets,” said Poletto. 

She explains that the personal cellular telephone exposes the difference between the tell (to tell into the telephone) and the talk (to talk in and around the telephone). The tel(l) is directed to a singular and known audience, and the talk is for everyone else, with one personalized and private and the other impersonal and public. The phone booth, on the other hand, separates a private space from public. 

Artists and writers from Toronto and around the country are invited to contribute a site-specific installation, artwork or short work of fiction that references a unique telephone booth location, complete with a phone call somewhere, somehow. Once the stories are completed, the booth gets tagged and documented by the Tel-Talk team. The installations are announced as they are completed over a nine-month period and the installations and stories will be collected in a publication by Tightrope Books. Toliao will provide original photographs of the sites for the publication and Poletto will serve as the book’s editor. Koscielak will lead the final project this summer, when the publication will launch to coincide with an exhibition and launch event at the Telephone Booth Gallery in Toronto. 

“In addition to encouraging people to take a look at the installations and exhibition, we encourage artists from across the country to be inspired by the Tel-Talk project and leave a mark on their city’s telephone booths,” said Poletto. Artists can contribute to the project by emailing a photo of their work to

Now, finding a phone booth may just get easier and be a cultured experience at the same time!

For further information and links to site-specific works and upcoming works nationwide, as well as a list of participants (Tel-Talkers), click here