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  Incoming Messages [2007] 20:00, HD/SD video  

Crafted from answering machine cassettes collected at thrift stores between 2003 and 2005, Incoming Messages examines the analog answering machine at the end of its life. Once the most widely used sound recording device in the United States--- millions of recordings were made each day, each minute, each second--- the analog machine is now outmoded, uneasily coexisting with newer media and our seemingly endless desire for constant improvement. But what can looking at outmoded technologies teach us about ourselves in the past, the present or even the future?


Maybe it was time to be exhausted. Tired. Outmoded. The cassette format was relentlessly linear—laying down its messages in a rigid chronological fashion. And so it was awkward, required a lot of rewinding and fast forwarding.

Its fatal flaw was its inability to effectively delete, an inability to mark the differences between wanted and unwanted, between things that are important and those that are just residual. Deleting, in the world of the analog answering machine, is really a crude kind of covering up. Messages don’t really get deleted, simply covered over by newer messages—prone to bleed through, fragmentation, revelation. This was its defining feature---- the cassette that it left behind, a record, a trace, a piece of evidence, a precious recording or a piece of junk.

In the end the cassette was too material—too cumbersome, too demanding. A problem that its successors, voice mail and digital machines, sought to over come through transcendence, an evaporation of the tape based message into the ether, a space of intangibility somewhere above our heads, freed from the constraints of gravity. No longer something to touch, hold, discard or collect.