Phone Art

Few objects in recent memory have been so fetishized as the cell phone, which we should finally all agree to call a mobile phone - but old habits die hard, as generic Kleenex and Xeroxes remind us. As testimony, we've got snazzy faceplates and a range of supposedly unique ringtones (the use of which is embarrassingly similar to customizing your car horn). Whether 'cell' or 'mobile,' however, these ubiquitous little devices are rapidly changing the very concept of 'phone,' especially with the recent addition of built-in digital cameras, which is among the concerns to be highlighted in a smart new show, 'Cell-outs and Phonies,' at the L.A. Center for Digital Art - a punning title that may be particularly appropriate in Los Angeles. The show's premise that these gadgets have inspired a 'revolution in photography and digital filmmaking' is insightful and timely, but the suggestion that their 'accessibility is eliminating the boundaries between amateur and professional' is questionable. Yet, this is certainly the kind of show which will form the critical basis of research to come, when, in future, these objects will have the nostalgic charm of retro klunkiness. - Michael Freeman