© 2019 by Mallory Feltz

Overheard and Overtaken

series of 308 buttons, glazed porcelain speech bubble money box

2009

Throughout my life I have found the humor and mystery in eavesdropping on other people’s uncontextualized conversations. Overhearing random conversations on a daily basis, has introduced the larger possibilities that eavesdropping has as a method for navigating a confusing and strange, yet ultimately humorous world. On each button is a one or two sentence overheard remark; ambiguous and random in its statement. With no allusion to speech inflection or dialectical emphasis, some phrases could be interpreted as either serious or humorous. The grid of buttons is organized according to the length of speech: the highest left button contains the longest word-count and syllable-usage phrase, and the lowest right button offers a one-word, one-syllable phrase. Some statements needed more intimate and longer listening than those heard quickly in passing. This arrangement creates a visually appealing gradation from dark to light.

Just below the button grid is a porcelain slip cast speech bubble moneybox, awaiting the immediate exchange of money for buttons (“$1 Each” is inscribed on the moneybox). It is my intention that the buttons be bought, traded, and even dispersed throughout the community – expanding the reach of this uncontextualized speech. Context is invented by the viewer and reinterpreted by each individual reading, creating a fictional narrative that may explain each phrase. This speaks to the appropriation of language frequently seen in our culture. Due to the rise of advertising that connects with the everyday person, words and phrases have been taken by companies, reshaped by advertising agents to suit their agendas, and branded as identifiable to specific products. Words and phrases are transformed to become universal, many taken out of context and then put back into an invented narrative. The end result of this piece, once viewers have removed the buttons they like, bears a resemblance to braille. 

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