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Bell Communications around the Globe

Jan 19, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Located on the AT&T building at 420 S. Grand Ave., is one of the most innovative pieces of public art I’ve ever seen. Measuring 36 feet wide and 17 feet high, the sculpture-cum-installation, “Bell Communications around the Globe,” incorporates small bits and pieces from telephone components including coils, coin box chutes, cables, and bells which adds both texture and depth to this magnificent artwork.

It’s hard to imagine where we’d be without the telephone. The phone has quickly evolved from rotary dials, to push button models, to portable extension phones, and now an incredible array of cell phones available for the general public. These new cell phones include every type of technological application that can be put into a tiny phone.

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Does anyone remember the days of “party lines?”

But I digress.

Artist, Anthony Heinsbergen, created this public masterpiece in 1961 using the communication tools available during that time. If created today, this mosaic would look quite different. About his work, Anthony Heinsbergen said:

This mosaic was not intended to be a map. Our objective was to tell the story of worldwide communication by cable, radio, telephone and satellite and do this in a way that would capture the attention and interest of people. A certain amount of artistic license was taken to achieve this end. Source: USC

While documenting this story and standing at the sculpture’s base taking pictures, people continually walked by me and seemed to be taking another look at something they’d probably seen many times, but never really noticed. Within each of its details, the notion of just how much telecommunications have changed, and changed our individual and collective lives, has truly created a giant global community, as the Bell Communications installation is as intricate in its design, as it is in its meaning and symbolism. And it reminds you of it with every single one of its thousands of unique but interrelated parts.

Looking up

If you want to visit and see this amazing piece of art, the “Bell Communications around the Globe” is located at 420 S. Grand Ave. By the way, a time capsule titled the "Capsule of Communication," was buried alongside the installation when the building and mural were dedicated in 1961. The time capsule was installed with a 50 year time span to be opened, which expires next year.

I wonder what it contains and why it was inserted. Such is the fate of tinkerers and thinkers. And for that, without progress and freedom to create, Travelin’ Local would be like walking in the desert.

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Culture, Downtown, Los Angeles, SoCal

4 Responses to “Bell Communications around the Globe”

  1. D. Travis North says:

    An interesting piece…I would also be interested to see what’s in the capsule (I’m sure Travelin’ Local intends to be there when it’s opened?). You bring up an interesting point that we are constantly at struggle with – particularly in my field (Landscape Architecture): If a work goes largely unnoticed, where is its merit? The people who walked by as you were there were probably more interested in you rather than the piece itself. It’s sad in a way. But that’s not the whole story. The reality is that public art pieces such as this do wonders to make a space more welcoming. Whether or not the human psyche is able to comprehend it at the time, deep down in their minds…their brain notices. Locals, especially, will rarely notice a piece such as this after seeing it every day. But they would certainly notice if the piece were removed. For that matter, would they be in that space if it weren’t filled with art in the first place? Say that was a blank wall, would it be as welcoming? Probably not.

    So while it may go largely unnoticed by passers-by, it serves a clear purpose.

    Side note about your photography specifically: We’ll chalk that last photo up as another clear piece of evidence at how far your photography has come. That’s a great photo – great use of depth of field to clearly illustrate the size of this piece. Excellent work.

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @D. Travis North, I totally understand where you’re coming from with your point. I’m sure several of the people were looking at me, trying to figure out why I was contorting my body. :)

    But, when I crossed the street to get a shot, I noticed people stopping and looking. I’m sure they had “seen” it before, but now were actually seeing it.

    Thank you for your comment on my photography. I love this particular shot. Of course, it’s looking up, but it really does give a feel for the depth this art piece illustrates. I have several shots similar to the one above, but I like this one the best.

    [Reply]

  2. Sara says:

    Lisa — This was interesting about the piece of artwork and communications. I remember when my family phone number had the exchange name Cherry. I no longer remember the numbers with it, but that name stuck with me. We also used the rotary dial phones, which I understand are now considered popular “retro.” It’s scary when you lived what’s now retro:~)

    The pictures you take about places are always so interesting. In this one, I liked that while you were shooting pictures of this piece of art, passing people stopped to look at again. Photography does that sometimes for both the watchers and the photographer. It makes you take that second look:~)

    I love your site!
    Sara´s last blog ..Picture Story: Celebrate Good Times My ComLuv Profile

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Sara, LOL………I totally agree with you about the “retro” comment. As you age, it’s amazing the things you take for granted that younger people have never heard of.

    Speaking of photographers, I’m one of those people who like to take pictures of people taking pictures. I don’t often get the chance, because I don’t go to too many “popular” places, but when I get the chance, it’s great.

    [Reply]

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