Paul St George: The Telectroscope – 2009. London, New York and the World.
This is the story of an extraordinary invention called a Telectroscope. Miraculously, using only a tunnel through the earth and a Telectroscope, people can simultaneously interact with others who are many miles and hours away.
(Photograph by Matthew Andrews)
(Photograph by Matthew Andrews)
Some years ago an artist by the name of Paul St George opened a battered suitcase. This suitcase had lain unopened on the top of a wardrobe for many years. In the suitcase he found a treasure trove of journals, drawings, diagrams, correspondence, notebooks, scribbled calculations, boxes of papers, an album of press–clippings and even one or two photographs. On further inspection he discovered that they had been the property of his great–grandfather, a little known Victorian engineer, Alexander Stanhope St George. The notebooks were full of intricate drawings and passages of writing describing a strange machine. This device looked like an enormous telescope with a strange beehive shaped cowl at one end containing a complex configuration of mirrors and lenses. Alexander seemed to be suggesting that this invention, which he called a Telectroscope, would act as a visual amplifier, allowing people to see through a tunnel of immense length… a tunnel, the drawings implied, stretching from one side of the world to the other.
One drawing seemed to capture the essence of the Telectroscope. The marginal notes describe a device that would enable “seeing at a distance” and “living” moving images with which spectators could interact in real–time. And then Paul found what he believes is the purpose of the invention. One page in a large red book is headed ‘The Suppression of Absence’. These words are underlined three times. The purpose of the Telectroscope is clear and Paul thought its need was even greater now. What had hindered Alexander Stanhope in his ambition? Was it lack of engineering know–how? Were there technologies unavailable then that might be available now? Paul aimed to uncover the problems that Alexander had faced…
Paul St George decided, not only to restore his great–grandfather’s reputation, but to complete his ancestor’s unfinished story. As a child, like all other children who have played on the beach or in a back garden, he would have wondered what would happen if he carried on digging. Would he get through to China or Australia? Would the sides of the tunnel collapse? What would he see?
On a sunny day in May 2008 the office workers and tourists walking along the river Thames near Tower Bridge in London were suddenly presented with a sight they had never seen before. A giant auger drill bit, probably 7 feet wide, had burst through the paved ground and was slowly turning and boring its way up through the ground. The reactions of the passers–by were mixed, some were laughing as if it was some kind of delayed 1st of April joke, some studied the piece as though it was a very serious piece of sculpture and others looked slightly alarmed as if this was the beginning of an invasion. The buzz along the banks of the Thames suggested that everyone was intrigued; everyone wanted to know more about the mysterious drill bit. The daily newspapers in London very quickly picked up the story and published photographs of the drill bit accompanied by 72–point question marks.
In the morning of the fourth day the drill bits on both sides of the Atlantic had been mysteriously replaced by a 37 feet long by 11 feet tall brass and wood Victorian–looking contraption. The object shared some similarities with an antique telescope and was connected to a huge brass dome. These contraptions were Telectroscopes. Paul had finally started to fulfil his great–grandfather’s dream.
The Telectroscopes connected London and New York through a number of tunnels and visual amplifiers. This enabled passers by in London to see and interact with the passers by in New York in real time. The 9–hour time difference between London and New York meant that the very first interaction between people in London and people in New York was between a group of office workers on their way to work in London and a curious NYPD officer on his night shift. The office workers at the London end were ecstatic; they had never seen, let alone interacted, with an NYPD officer in real life before. Until then, NYPD officers had only existed in the fantasy of ‘NYPD Blue’. It did not take long before the police officer was throwing his best salsa moves and the office workers in London were responding with an impromptu cha–cha.
The Telectroscope has a very interesting effect on people. People interacting with people at the other end of the tunnel become performers not just for the people at the other end but also for the people surrounding them at their own end of the Telectroscope.
As un–amplified sound does not travel very well through the tunnels people at both ends started to invent their own visual ways of communicating with each other. New forms of body language were invented, people brought along whiteboards and markers and used these to write and draw messages to one another. The most reserved people would find themselves jumping up and down, dancing, acting and playing ‘air–tennis’ across the Atlantic. After having spent only five minutes in front of the Telectroscope, an otherwise very shy girl, maybe 8 years old, became the World champion in the “trans–Atlantic limbo dancing championships”.
After a few days people made the Telectroscope their own, there were people getting engaged through the Telectroscope, grandparents were introduced to their grandchildren for the first time, there were dance–offs between London and New York, puppeteers and a Dutch girl in London used the Telectroscope to find an apartment for her forthcoming trip to New York. People were flirting, and phone numbers were exchanged. A girl who was going to visit a friend in New York used the Telectroscope to turn the visit into their first date. (You can see what happens here).
At each end of the Telectroscope people from different cultures, religions and social backgrounds were ‘playing’ together and enjoying each other's company. A number of people were heard saying: “These things could stop wars, they show us that we are all the same”.
The Telectroscope also brought people in both cities to parts of town they might not normally visit. The Ice–cream Factory by the Fulton Ferry Landing had to close early because, for the first time ever, and because of the new traffic that was pouring over the Brooklyn Bridge, it ran out of ice–cream.
The Telectroscope was first written about in the New York Times and in the ‘London’ Times. After the publication of these two articles, other newspapers took up the story and for a few weeks it seemed as if everyone was writing about the Telectroscope. The newspaper coverage was quickly followed by television crews (including CBS and Fox) picking up the story. The BBC’s 6 o’clock news sent their weatherman to do the weather forecast through the Telectroscope. A reporter from the Wall Street Journal dressed up in full Victorian dress and put together a very imaginative version of the Telectroscope story. A few days later the Discovery Channel also recorded their Telectroscope story. Paul was in back–to–back interviews with television crews from Brazil, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, China, Turkey, Lithuania, Japan, UK and many other countries. In the end the interviews had to be stopped in case the queues became too long. The queues were now 2 hours long. Two hours of happily queuing people.
The Telectroscope also continued and continues its life on–line. People in many countries started up numerous blogs discussing how the Telectroscope might work, the story of Alexander Stanhope St George and what they experienced when they visited the Telectroscope. Every day people filled flickr and YouTube sites with their photographs and videos of the Telectroscope.
Permission to use one subterranean section of the tunnels was temporary and so unfortunately, and despite popular demand, the Telectroscopes had to be removed in June 2008.
Now Paul St George and the New Telectroscope Company plan to build on the early success of the Telectroscope, to locate other tunnels and to install a number of other Telectroscopes in other cities. We invite you to be part of the dream.
Please contact Paul St George <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Telectroscope is a registered trade mark
© Paul St George 2009