The Telectroscope: It’s done with mirrors

Or at least that’s the story Paul St George, a London-based artist, tells when asked about his latest art installation in both New York and London, the Telectroscope (which is sure to attract Steam Punk enthusiasts). According to him, the device is stationed at each end of a transatlantic tunnel connecting the two cities and through ingenious mirror manipulation, allows folks to view each other across continents. From the looks of the obviously planted gravel and broken boards that is surely true.

The wonder of engineering sits just under the Brooklyn Bridge, on the scenic Fulton Ferry Landing and appears to be an enormous telescope in structure, with a door to an engineer’s room and numerous cogs and wheels upon its mass. To continue the story behind this Victorian piece, it was only the finishing of a project began over a century ago by the artist’s great-grandfather, Alexander Stanhope St George. The present St George stumbled upon diaries and sketches left behind by his predecessor and from these papers gleaned the plans and the saga of a tunnel burrowed through the earth that would allow persons to travel from one location to another. The grand scheme appeared to be too grand, and it was decided that the tunnel would have to be scaled down. However, another great idea was born from this setback. Why travel, if one could simply see the persons on the other end of the tunnel? And so Alexander set to designing a machine powerful enough to magnify the view from one end of the tunnel to the other. This “device for the suppression of absence” is the famed Telectroscope that we are now fortunate enough to view and to view through.

The Telectroscope attracting lots of passersby

Alexander also began the great dig, but beset by misfortunes and tragedies, the tunnel was left incomplete until his equally maniacal grandson, Paul St George, completed the project and brought the whole thing to the public eye. The story is as much part of the art installation as the Telecroscope itself, and is worth a read at the official site.

The piece itself is impressive, but it is its function that brings forth onlookers in both time zones. White boards and markers are provided to spark conversation. Although an interesting concept, the people involved in the art piece are its failures. During my visit the Londoners were generally snide, while the New Yorkers milled about without a retort.

Snide Londoners

The Telectroscope is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will be available until the 15th of June. Some heartfelt moments could be squeezed out if you are in New York with friends or relatives in London, or vice versa. In general, I suggest visiting the installation armed with comments and maybe some repartees.

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