Once Outdated, These Phone Booths Are Now Ringing With A Call Everyone Should Answer

In New York’s Times Square, an art installation is focused on the humanity of the immigrant community.

In an age when almost everyone has a phone in his or her pocket at almost all times, it's been years since most people have stepped into a phone booth. However, three recently rescued and repurposed booths have been installed in New York's Times Square in hopes that individuals will still be curious enough to answer a call.

The project, called "Once Upon A Place," is an art installation by Aman Mojadidi. The booths can neither receive nor place calls, but instead play recordings of immigrants to the city telling their own stories. 


"I wanted people to understand that cities like New York, great metropolitan cities around the world, are largely built by the immigrants who come there, work there, settle there, live there," Mojadidi told artnet News. "None of that should be anything that's feared, but something that should be celebrated and accepted."

The Afghan-American artist born to immigrant parents worked for three years to gather the stories and rewire the phone booths. Mojadidi told the New York Times that many immigrant communities were suspicious when he tried to interview them for the project, and he saw a noticeable drop in responses after Donald Trump's election. 

"Times Square Arts has never done a project that is more important, more timely, and more powerful," Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said at a press preview for the project. "This is a political battle and a political issue, and this magnificent work of art speaks to that."

Across the city, more than a third of residents are foreign-born and almost 800 languages are spoken. As debates concerning immigrants and national security continue, "Once Upon A Place" strives to remind people that the immigrant community is made up of individuals. 

"The most important outcome of Once Upon a Place is that no matter how different the experiences of migration might be among the storytellers, visitors will hear the common humanity in their voices that cannot, in fact should not, be confined by arbitrarily defined, historically drawn, and forcefully maintained geopolitical borders that will never truly reflect the realities of contemporary human experience," Mojadidi said in a press release about the installation. 

The installation is currently scheduled to be on display until September 5. 


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