Local artist Fi Bailey used the Porty Light Box for an installation during this years Art Walk Porty.
Part of my practice is rethinking everyday spaces, so I was interested in the position the Light Box holds as a community landmark. The disused phone box is a place where people continue to meet through habit, or by chance, on a busy corner of Portobello. The caller would face towards the beach, yet the box has no view of the sea. I wanted to learn about the connections people have had to the kiosk in its lifetime, as a both private and public space.
People shared similar stories; private calls in relationships no one knew about, relationships ending before the coins ran out, regularly calling 160 for dial-a-disc, and a lot of time queuing outside the box – usually to call for a lift from the Baths. Even those who didn’t recall the Bellfield Street box, shared a longing for telephone conversations before mobiles, back when everyone knew the number of the nearest public phone by heart. Some wanted to know if the telephone was still inside and still working, and if not – what did the box contain now? From this, I worked with the idea that the box had overgrown while out of use.
I began looking at ways of representing the absence with sculpted fabric, equal to the surface area of human skin, (1.8m2). All the materials I used were then coated in matching, patented, Currant Red paint. In the end the fabric provided little more than concealment – of the empty holes, cables, and a marked concrete floor – so I decided instead to lay it bare, letting the light in, and allowing passers-by to view from one side to the other. The alternative materials – balloons, paint, plaster and water – are fragile and will need replenished, any ruptures will be left in place so the view will change over the next fortnight.
The final arrangement is how I imagine the box might look if left uninterrupted; the white ceiling shifting and the red outer shell seeping through. Instead of decay, there’s a sense of renewal and the soft centre is left hovering, on the verge of a “pop”. It reflects the slower communication people yearn for, a pause in the middle of a conversation. Maybe it’s the moment before the landline would ring, when you had already sensed it would, and you knew who was calling before you picked up.