This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Thesis project views tranportation as art

Published: April 21, 2005

Reporter Contributor

Not many people would describe being caught in a traffic jam or riding on a bus or packing into a subway car as art.

But according to the artistic philosophies of Arzu Ozkal Telhan, a Master's of Fine Arts candidate in the Department of Art, moving people and recording their conversations and experiences serves as a unique artist's platform.

Telhan has organized the first ever Public Transphere, a free public transportation service traveling between the Allentown, Fruit Belt and Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus neighborhoods of Buffalo. A van will tour the areas between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and 3-7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Members of the public are invited to participate, and riders will be encouraged to discuss their opinions and concerns about their respective communities, Telhan said.

The van will run on a 30-minute loop, starting at Main and North streets then traveling east across the medical campus area, north through the Fruit Belt and back to Main and North.

The idea behind Public Transphere—Telhan's MFA thesis project—is to bring the residents of Buffalo together on a free speech platform, creating a nomadic environment to chat about the communal experience of living in Buffalo.

Telhan got the idea for the project after learning about the theories of writer and filmmaker Guy Debord and artist Joseph Beuys in a lecture by Steven Kurtz, a faculty member in the Department of Art. Debord, she said, worked with Situationist International, a political and artistic movement that espouses the concept of psychogeography, which Telhan said deals with the perception of place and interaction with space.

"I have always enjoyed the interaction and the contribution of the audience to my work," she said. "And I totally agree with Joseph Beuys when he says the artist is responsible for society. The artist's responsibility is much more than representing society only as the means of visual depiction. The artist also must contribute to the creation of socially aware communities by constructing moments of sociability and creating acts from which social relations and formations may emerge."

Telhan is collaborating with students and staff from other disciplines in organizing the project. Minoo Amini, a senior staff assistant in the Center for Urban Studies, School of Architecture and Planning, helped design the tour route. Media study graduate students Jesse F. Fabian and Paul Visco handled the technological aspects of the project, including online radio broadcasting, image/video capturing and capturing/sending GPS data—all of which will record the conversations and movements onboard the van. Fabian added video cameras and an Internet connection to the vehicle to make it reactive to its environment and occupants, Telhan said.

The public will be able to go to —the site will go live on Saturday—and communicate live with the participants on board the van, resulting in a unique two-way mobile communication during the tour.

Telhan hopes the project will help bridge the different communities of Buffalo.

"I wanted to expand this interaction to people from diverse cultural backgrounds and interests, and to people who do not necessarily experience art as a primary part of their daily lives," she said. "Therefore, the project intends to construct a bridge between art and the society itself."